SAPI, the URG Team

‘Technology is not neutral.’ This statement increasingly represents the consensus position of technologists, human rights campaigners, ethicists, and political scientists. According to this emerging consensus, technology itself can in fact be instilled with certain values –either in line with or contradictory to human rights norms. This simple conclusion is not merely descriptive, however, but also empowering. It empowers us –in our capacity as diplomats, policymakers, technologists, corporate managers, entrepreneurs, innovators, bureaucrats, civil society activists, students,  professors, consumers and regular citizens– to guide technology and bend the ark of its life cycle in the direction of social justice and the promotion and protection of human rights.

If technology is not neutral, and if there is this consistently foreseeable risk of bad or ignorant actors deploying technology for less-than-noble ends, the burning question becomes how can we do everything in our power to make it more likely than not that technologies are beneficial to individuals, communities and humanity, while minimising and countering some of their inherent  potential to do harm? Is there a method by which technologies, especially new and emerging technologies, can be ‘hard wired’ or ‘genetically engineered’ to serve pro-social causes that respect, protect and fulfil human rights?

In this policy report, we propose such a method, which we are calling the Human Rights-Based Approach to New and Emerging Technologies (HRBA@Tech, for short). It was developed jointly by the Universal Rights Group (URG), along with the Seoul National University Artificial Intelligence Policy Initiative (SAPI), an interdisciplinary research laboratory at Seoul National University in Korea devoted to the interdisciplinary exploration of issues having to do with artificial intelligence. In developing this model, both URG and SAPI drew on their comparative sources of experience, building on their relationships with the diplomatic, academic, and technical communities to develop and refine the model.

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