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A scientist’s opinion : Interview with Mark Dubrulle about AI and Democracy

A scientist's opinion : Mark Dubrulle about AI and Democracy

Interview with Mark Dubrulle, president of the Club de Rome – EU Chapter.

AI definitely is something we need, but I have doubts as to the capacity of present institutions to define a code that could be acceptable for everyone.

In its draft report on AI, the European Parliament underlines that the development of AI will bring substantial changes in the work environment. Do you think that this, in itself, represents a potential challenge for democracy, as the trust of citizens towards democracy seems to be increasingly dependent on their economic wellbeing?

Mark Dubrulle: This is a challenge not only for democracy and its institutions, but for humankind more broadly: Homo Sapiens will disappear step by step, evolving into another kind of Human being that is largely shaped by AI.  The Club of Rome’s mission is to contribute to transcending “silo” approaches in scientific disciplines. As President of the EU Chapter I am very pleased that the European Parliament is paying close attention to the issue, in the context of accelerating developments in democracy. As a society, we should better define what we mean by economic welfare and a sustainable world. Climate change for instance calls for a substantial change in our behaviour. Technology alone, including AI, will not be sufficient. Yet, I do not see consensus about AI, new for most of us. Even the experts do not agree about benefits and risks. We have to wait and see, and avoid jumping to conclusions too quickly.

In its draft report, the European Parliament says that « AI should be governed by a code of ethics in the same way that human behavior is guided. What are your thoughts on this ?

Mark Dubrulle: The question is fundamental: it definitely is something we need, but I have doubts as to the capacity of present institutions to define a code of ethics that could be acceptable for everyone. The global human village is very diverse. There are even different interpretations of human rights. What do we mean today by « ethics »? It is a complex issue, as ethics are based on culture, values, education, religion, subconscious and unconscious behavior. Representatives of the people should define a code of behavior, but at the end of the day, we cannot expect such a code to solve all problems. There will remain a responsibility for individuals who take decisions. I wish to stress the special duty of the EU, particularly of the European Parliament, because there is a European way of thinking about values and ethics that is unique in the World and we have a duty to develop and share it. It should be embedded in a new enlightenment.

Should Europe adopt specific rules on AI, or do you rather think that its strong Human Rights principles are sufficient to harness the potential consequences of AI on democracy ?

Mark Dubrulle: Current rights are a good starting point but will not be sufficient. The USA are leading the way towards future AI, beneficial for all. However, they are mainly driven by business and money. As for China, they are not a democracy, they may not take the needed principles into account, though they might also impose regulation more easily than other countries. To uphold democratic values in AI, Europe needs to act.  When one reads the press in some countries, one would think that the EU is over-regulating everything. However, in environmental protection, the EU has been a world leader. We should be leaders, not followers, and shape the future.

Should an algorithm be even more transparent if the basis of its action is to earn the most money possible for its owner?

Mark Dubrulle: Quite obviously transparency is needed. Yet, as long as we live with competition rather than cooperation, it will be difficult to enforce it. When people cooperate, they need transparency to work together. With an economic system that is based on competition at any price, such transparency is not possible. It all has to do with education, in the light of new economics. If we educate citizens in the spirit of cooperation, by showing it is beneficial and profitable for companies, as well as for the wellbeing for society at large, then the possibilities are open.

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