Conference on Law and Ethics of AI in the Public Sector

Published 21 February 2022

On 10–11 March 2022, the Asser Institute is organising an interdisciplinary conference on ‘Law and Ethics of Artificial Intelligence in the Public Sector: From Principles to Practice and Policy’.

The conference will address the multiple challenges raised by the increasing use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the public sector. As AI is progressively deployed in various domains such as healthcare, energy, welfare, border security, criminal justice, law enforcement, and defence, it is essential to ensure that the development and use of AI technologies are guided by core values, in particular the rule of law and human rights.

In recent years, the rapid progress of AI capabilities has been accompanied by a growing recognition of the need to proactively reflect on its societal implications, so as to shape the development and applications of technology in line with ethical and legal principles. Public and private institutions alike have called for a fundamental examination on the potential impacts of AI, in order to guide AI research and policy towards beneficial outcomes, and to ultimately maintain agency over the technologies we decide to adopt.

Unfettered deployment of AI has already led to unintended consequences notably in terms of discrimination, privacy, due process, transparency, and accountability. Current debates on autonomous weapons systems, the use of facial recognition in public spaces, risk-assessment algorithms in the judicial system, or automated detection of welfare fraud, demonstrate that the implementation of data-driven policy-making and algorithmic decision-making in the public sector is a highly topical and important issue. The potentially promising and seemingly less controversial applications of AI for instance to improve healthcare or energy management should as well be the subject of close reflection and scrutiny, as they are not exempt from risks and human rights concerns.

The conference will result in an interdisciplinary dialogue aimed at generating insights on the principles, conditions, and methods that would facilitate the responsible deployment of AI in the public sphere. In order to develop solutions to the pressing challenges of AI, the ethical, legal, technical, and policy aspects must be addressed together. Indeed, both the bedrock of ethical values such as human dignity and individual autonomy, and fundamental legal norms in particular human rights, need to be translated and assimilated into the design and engineering of AI systems. The conference will thereby build necessary bridges between ethics, law, and engineering, and further seek to operationalise principles into practice and policy.


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This initiative received financial support from the KNAW (Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences) under the Academy Early Career Partnerships Awards.