Brussels / 1 & 2 February 2020


Freedom and AI: Can Free Software include ethical AI systems?

Exploring the intersection of Free software and AI

Despite the number of working groups, advisory committees, and coordination roundtables, there is little progress towards creating more ethical and safe AI systems. AI systems are deployed in increasingly fragile contexts. From law enforcement to humanitarian aid, several organizations use AI powered systems to make or inform critical decisions with increasingly outsized side effects.

What is a rights-based approach for designing minimally safe and transparent guidelines for AI systems? In this talk, we explore what a Free AI system might look like. Then, taking research and guidelines from organizations such as Google and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, we propose practical policies and tools to ensure those building an AI system respect user freedom. Lastly, we propose the outlines of a new kind of framework where all derivative works also respect those freedoms.

Rights based approaches are commonly used within humanitarian contexts to approach problems that the sector faces. In this talk, we use the same approach to solving the issue of “unethical” AI systems. We do so by first defining a set of rights that we feel must be respected, proposing a number of methods that we feel helps ensure a system respects those rights, and lastly propose an organizational and regulatory framework that we feel could help encourage and enforce those methods be used by developers of AI systems.


Photo of Justin W. Flory Justin W. Flory
Photo of Michael Nolan Michael Nolan