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Guest speaker at the ECOSOC

Updated: Jun 7

On July 5th, 2024, Lena Rohrbach from Amnesty International addressed the ECOSOC committee via a projection screen in the school auditorium of Neues Gymnasium Oldenburg as a guest speaker.

Her speech aimed to raise awareness among the delegates about the intersection of human rights and new technologies, particularly artificial intelligence. Rohrbach emphasized both the negative side effects and the advantages of AI. She highlighted the potential risks and challenges AI poses to human rights, while also acknowledging the significant benefits it can offer.

Following her speech, Rohrbach engaged in a Q&A session, providing further insights and clarifications on this critical issue. One of the primary concerns highlighted is the use of AI to automate the review of job applications. Major corporations, such as Amazon, have implemented AI systems to streamline their hiring processes. However, these systems have demonstrated a troubling tendency to favor male candidates over female ones. Amazon's AI recruitment tool, intended to enhance hiring efficiency, was scrapped after the company discovered it could not ensure fairness due to ingrained biases within the algorithm. These biases, rooted in historical data, led to the exclusion of qualified female candidates, showcasing the potential for AI to perpetuate gender discrimination.

AI's influence extends beyond employment, seeping into critical areas such as healthcare. Algorithms designed to calculate healthcare provisions have been found to privilege certain demographics, predominantly white individuals, at the expense of others. This discriminatory practice arises from biased data sets that do not accurately represent the diverse populations needing care. As a result, minority groups face significant disadvantages, with their health needs being systematically overlooked by AI systems. This bias can lead to unequal access to medical resources and poorer health outcomes for marginalised communities.

Lena Rohrbach also highlighted several positive aspects of AI, illustrating its potential to benefit society when used responsibly. One notable example she provided was the use of AI-powered lie detectors at borders, which enhance security by accurately identifying deceptive behavior. This technology helps prevent illegal activities and protect citizens from potential harm.

After presenting these positive effects and laying out her pressing concerns and their real-world implications, Rohrbach opened the floor to questions from the delegates, eager to engage in a deeper discussion about the challenges and ethical considerations of AI.

When asked by the Delegate of Costa Rica if she thought it could be critical for AI to make decisions regarding human rights, Lena responded that she always prefers to have someone supervise such decisions. She emphasized the importance of human oversight in matters of significant ethical and legal consequences. However, Rohrbach also noted that AI can be very useful for more uncomplicated tasks, such as recommending films on Netflix, where the stakes are much lower and the potential for harm is minimal.

After all the questions, the Delegate from Peru inquired about Rohrbach‘s stance on AI. Rohrbach emphasized her cautious approach, prioritizing the threats posed by AI over its potential benefits. She clarified that this does not imply AI is inherently bad; however, she believes the risks outweigh the advantages at present. In addition, she highlighted the existence of numerous loopholes and the need for significant improvements before AI can be considered unequivocally beneficial. Her perspective underscores the importance of addressing AI's challenges to harness its full potential responsibly.

By Hanna Baalmann, Alexander Heyn, Jorin Meyer, Mattes Buchholz.


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