By Nimisha Dubey (JD ’18) and Kiran Kingra (JD ’19)
On April 18, 2018, Global Affairs Canada’s (“GAC”) Digital Inclusion Lab and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research brought together students from across the country in a student symposium aimed at developing policy options in response to the impacts of Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) on human rights. Two students from Windsor Law, Nimisha Dubey (JD ‘18) and Kiran Kingra (JD ‘19), were selected to participate in this Symposium under the supervision of Professor Kristen Thomasen.
The mix of academic backgrounds, such as law, communication studies, international relations and computer science, facilitated an exchange of ideas on the very cutting-edge of public-policy development to help position Canada as a global leader on AI that respects and promotes human rights. The symposium was a culmination of year-long research initiatives undertaken by students in areas such as AI and inclusion, online hate and terrorism, and democracy.
The symposium provided the students an opportunity to showcase their ideas to the AI stakeholder community, including from academia, non-governmental organizations, private sector, and other government departments. The students were then divided into teams and were challenged to factor in feedback they received during the event from the stakeholder community into policy recommendations. These recommendations were formalized and presented to a senior panel which included the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. The exercise was a creative way to provide GAC with policy recommendations that will likely inform current thinking on this complex and rapidly evolving issue.
Each of Windsor Law students Nimisha Dubey and Kiran Kingra provide some of the highlights of their experience in participating to this Symposium.
Nimisha says that, “participating in the GAC AI and Human Rights Symposium took ‘experiential education’ to another level. The entire research process from beginning to end was stimulating and refreshing; it allowed me to explore an area of law that I am passionate about with the mentorship of a trailblazer in this field. The symposium itself brought together individuals from many diverse backgrounds and disciplines which made for an engaging conversation. The approaches to the use and development of AI in Canada proposed were practical, creative and well received from government and industry decision-makers. The caliber of the research presented by the student participants was most impressive and is an indication that Canada is in good hands with such bright and enthusiastic scholars looking to explore this field and help place Canada at the forefront of AI and tech innovation.”
Nimisha chose to focus her research on how AI technology can help mitigate the negative effects of climate change on human rights in Canada. Nimisha writes, “Among other impacts, climate change negatively affects people’s rights to health, housing, water and food, and it will disproportionately affect individuals, groups and peoples in vulnerable situations, such as Indigenous communities across Canada. Therefore, Canada must act to mitigate climate change, including through policy and institutional actions, in order to prevent to the greatest extent possible, the current and future negative human rights impacts of climate change. Further research must be conducted, conversations held, and proposals considered before any meaningful steps can be taken toward mitigating climate change using AI technology." She hopes to publish her work in the coming months to provide the Canadian government with a resource to begin taking action in the area of AI and climate change.
For Kiran Kingra, the current lack of regulation and oversight of AI, in light of the many challenges that it will bring to the field of law, made AI a very pertinent and interesting topic. So, when the opportunity arose to do research on the intersection of Artificial Intelligence and Human rights and work with Professor Thomasen, one of Canada’s leading experts in robotics law and policy, as a supervised research paper, she jumped at the chance.
AI will have capabilities to collect audio, visual, sensory and olfactory data and robots, drones and the Internet of things (“IoT”)1 will facilitate direct surveillance. As such, Kiran chose to do her research on the challenges at the intersection of privacy and AI. The subject matter also proved to be very timely as the Cambridge Analytica scandal unfolded and it became more widely known how social media data can be manipulated without consent. The research paper focuses on looking at data as the raw material that powers AI as well as at the privacy challenges posed by data collection, data use and data security. The paper also proposes policy suggestions and enhancements to current law.
“Participating in the symposium provided me the opportunity to engage with law in a more dynamic and meaningful way than studying usually offers. I was encouraged to see the diversity of thought and educational disciplines tackling an issue that will impact us all and generations to come.” During the symposium, student groups also jointly presented policy suggestions in terms of priority to global affairs Canada as input to the departments planning. Students from the different universities looked at the vast opportunities available from AI, such as providing a lifeline to refugees through AI mobile applications, to the impact it will have on labour and employment. Along with the optimism, it was also encouraging to encounter a healthy skepticism of the new technologies.
Canada has been touted to be a leader in AI and has become a hotbed for AI talent. Thus it is only fitting that it should take a lead in regulation and governance. With any new technology, there always exists a potential to exploit the haves not and marginalized communities. As such, it was also refreshing to see a proactive stance from the government as it chose to look at AI’s future potential and embrace the challenges from a human rights and ethics perspective. As high as future economic gains may be through the development of AI technologies, failing to consider and address the possible human rights and ethics ramifications could have severe social consequences that may not be reversible.
All presentations and papers can be found at: https://www.cifar.ca/events/student-symposium-artificial-intelligence-human-rights/