Human Dignity and Artificial Intelligence: Mapping the Contours and Utility of Human Dignity in addressing Challenges presented by AI

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The ubiquitous use of artificial intelligence (AI) is said to bring about both positive and negative consequences for individuals, societies and democratic values. Its human rights impacts similarly range from impacts to discrete rights such as the right to privacy, non-discrimination and freedom of opinion and expression. On the other hand, the human rights framework is said to be insufficient to meaningfully counter some of the harms posed by AI systems. It is said that AI presents second order challenges ill-suited to be addressed by discrete legal rights focused upon the individual, both elements which are key conceptual foundations of the contemporary human rights framework. One oft-cited value to guide the human rights interpretation and general governance logic in addressing challenges posed by AI is human dignity. Considered as a core value and expressed in international human rights instruments, national constitutions and other regulatory instruments, the concept of human dignity is one that wears many hats.

Yet, for such a core value, there is a persistent lack of clarity concerning the contours of its meaning (when applied to concrete situations) and the scope of its application. This impacts how well arguments relying on the concept of human dignity can be deployed to counter challenges and harms posed by AI systems. This article unpacks human dignity by examining how it has been deployed and interpreted within case law and treaty interpretation. Four key interpretations of human dignity are gleamed from this exploration, namely the prevention of instrumentalization of the human person, the protection of certain vulnerable classes of persons, the recognition and exercise of inherent self-worth (including the exercise of individual autonomy) and a wider notion of the protection of humanity. Extrapolating these interpretations towards challenges posed by the affordances of AI systems to human dignity, this paper proposes that preserving human dignity in the age of AI should foreground three aspects, namely; the challenge of disembodiment of empiric self-representation and contextual sense-making, the choice architectures for the exercise of cognitive autonomy and finally, a bottom-up approach informed by the experiential context of lived experiences using the lens of human vulnerability.
Original languageEnglish
JournalLaw, Innovation and Technology
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)241-279
Number of pages39
Publication statusPublished - 2023
EventThe Impact of Digitalisation on Constitutional Law organized by the International Association of Constitutional Law (IACL) - Copenhagen, Denmark, Copenhagen, Denmark
Duration: 31 Jan 20211 Feb 2022


ConferenceThe Impact of Digitalisation on Constitutional Law organized by the International Association of Constitutional Law (IACL)
LocationCopenhagen, Denmark

ID: 366999793