Social Innovation for the Sustainability

"Our whole life is shaped in relation to technology. We are already constituted as socio-technical environments".

Interview with Txetxu Ausín, director of the Applied Ethics Group at CSIC and co-author of the article "Ethics and Law in the Digital Revolution" in the latest issue of Journal Seventeen.

 What role do ethics and law play in digitalisation and technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI)?

It is well known that technologies are not neutral, that they incorporate values from their very design to their implementation and development. It is therefore essential to align these values with the needs and expectations of society in order to generate public trust in technology that contributes to its acceptance and appropriation (a virtuous circle between technology and society). For this, ethical reflection and its translation into law are necessary and irreplaceable. Moreover, technologies such as AI profoundly transform systems (economic, social and natural), which is why they are said to be "disruptive". This new ecosystem has the potential to radically change our lives, our rights and freedoms, our relationships and also the environment. This calls for ethical debate, public deliberation and good governance with the relevant legal regulation.

Why should it be important for ethics and law to be involved and present in data science?

Because data are everywhere, they constitute unavoidable mediations in our live5_TXEXU_AUSIN.jpgs (social, cultural, labour, political...) through their management by algorithms. And there are major areas of risk that must be anticipated through rigorous ethical analysis and the consequent introduction of legal measures: bias, discrimination, profiling, contamination, surveillance... Ethics and law are the ways to protect the individual, society and the environment from the damage and negative impacts that AI can cause, as well as to define its orientation towards the common good and a fair distribution of its benefits and advantages. Ethics and law are indispensable elements in the model of responsible governance of research and technological development that aims to reduce the gap between the scientific community and society and to contribute to a socially responsible use of data.

What role can ethics within technologies play in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals?

As I said at the beginning, the way we define the values that will shape our technology will determine its impact and social benefit. Only if we incorporate from design an ethical approach to technology that is oriented towards the fulfilment of human rights and the Sustainable Development Goals can we ensure that the technological impulse does not increase the inequality gap on the planet and that, on the contrary, it is a proactive agent in the substantial improvement of life in terms of solidarity, mutual support and justice.

What are the challenges to self-identity and human relations in this context?

Our whole life is shaped in relation to technologies in such a way that we can say that we already constitute ourselves as "socio-technical environments". We maintain a working, cognitive, social and even affective link with our artefacts and therefore we need to reflect on how we articulate this close relationship. The interaction of human beings with AI blurs the human-machine boundary as we work with artefacts in a kind of symbiosis between human and artificial intelligence and consequently AI can be defined as a "collective and social intelligence", with multiple agents. And this undoubtedly transforms our identity, our habits and customs, our relationships.