Is Montréal about to become the Geneva of AI? That’s the dream researchers, ethicists and philosophers have been entertaining since November, as they work on developing the Montréal Declaration for a Responsible Development of Artificial Intelligence.
Autonomous cars, racist chatbot, artificial companion, robot nanny… What is desirable and acceptable? Is the purpose truly for the wellbeing of humans? If there ever were a bug or accident, who would be responsible? In order to answer these key questions, last fall Université de Montréal organized the first forum dedicated to the ethics of AI.
Soon to be an international observatory
Since then, researchers have been toiling on the Montréal Declaration, a sort of international declaration of human rights in respect to machines. The idea is not to halt progress but to rally all AI labs across the world around a responsible vision of technological development.
In his last novel, Origin, Dan Brown imagines a future where AI completely absorbs human intelligence. We’re not there yet. But at a time when scandals surrounding very questionable use of personal data are breaking out almost every day, we can only point out the relevance—and urgency—of opening the dialogue on ethics.
Université de Montréal should also soon be announcing the creation of an International Observatory on the societal impacts of artificial intelligence and digital technologies in Montréal.
The soul of the machine
Prolific Russian-American science fiction author Isaac Asimov paved the way for a sound and sustainable man-machine relationship back in 1942. The first of Asimov’s three laws of robotics states: “A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.” More than 75 years later, much of his fiction has become reality and Montréal has inherited the task of setting new boundaries.
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