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Argonne National Laboratory’s AI Distinguished Lecture Series: AI Ethics, Politics and The Unmatched Distinctiveness of Human Power

Argonne’s AI Distinguished Lecture Series feature pioneers and innovators from around the world conducting research in foundational and applied AI. The lectures cover a wide variety of topics in academia, industry, finance and technology.

Speaker: Gry Hasselbalch

Abstract: We are at a crossroads, facing a moment of controversy. Somewhere along the path towards the AI and data-driven digital societies we are immersed in today, we lost some of our human power. Silenced, among others, by cyber-libertarian declarations of independence from traditional forms of power and dominance. In fact, what is least human is what we are becoming most familiar with; that which is performed and practiced in increasingly datafied and predictable socio-technical realities. 

This lecture challenges the view of technological solutionism that portrays humans as powerless and flawed. A more nuanced understanding of the relationship between humans and technology is needed to foster a democratic and inclusive society with AI. The first step is to forge an understanding of the potential and distinctness of human power – our capacity to make decisions with reflection, empathy, care, solidarity, among others. By grasping how human power differs fundamentally from the power of AI, our technology politics, and ethics can ensure not only our rights and well-being as individual human beings but also safeguard humanity as a whole, while simultaneously generating alternative AI realities that aim to enhance human power rather than replace it. 

These days international negotiations are taking place to develop a shared ​“rules set” for the global governance of AI ensuring adoption and deployment with human rights and democratic values at its core. The European Union’s (EU) efforts, especially, to position the union of member states globally with a human-centric approach to digitalization and AI through the establishment the EU High-Level Expert Group that developed the EU Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy AI , policies like the General Data Protection Regulation or the AI Act and the European Declaration on Digital Rights and Principles, demonstrate the importance of taking an active role in shaping the future of AI. At the same time, global approaches have been emerging with the UNESCO AI Ethics recommendations now being implemented in countries worldwide, the OECD AI ethics principles, the United Nation’s Global Digital Compact initiative, and important diplomacy activities taking place between likeminded partners, such as the EU-US Technology and Trade Council’s for Trustworthy AI and Risk Management

Humanity needs specific conditions to flourish. A nourishing space symbolically, culturally but also materially making room for and accommodating human values and empowerment. Technology politics and ethics can guide the development of such spaces with a reflective ​‘human-centric’ approach. 

About the Argonne National Laboratory

Argonne National Laboratory, situated in Lemont, Illinois, USA, is a research and development center financed by the federal government. Established in 1946, the laboratory is under the ownership of the United States Department of Energy and is managed by UChicago Argonne LLC, an affiliate of the University of Chicago. Notably, it stands as the largest national laboratory in the Midwest. The origins of Argonne can be traced back to the Metallurgical Laboratory of the University of Chicago, which was established partly to support Enrico Fermi’s research on nuclear reactors during the Manhattan Project in World War II. Following the war, on July 1, 1946, it was officially designated as the inaugural national laboratory in the United States.