Originally posted November 2, 2018
Here is an excerpt:
Even many ethics-focused panel discussions–or manel discussions, as some call them–are pale, male, and stale. That is to say, they are made up predominantly of old, white, straight, and wealthy men. Yet these discussions are meant to be guiding lights for AI technologies that affect everyone.
A historical illustration is useful here. Consider polio, a disease that was declared global public health enemy number one after the successful eradication of smallpox decades ago. The “global” part is important. Although the movement to eradicate polio was launched by the World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of the United Nations’ World Health Organization, the eradication campaign was spearheaded primarily by groups in the U.S. and similarly wealthy countries. Promulgated with intense international pressure, the campaign distorted local health priorities in many parts of the developing world.
It’s not that the developing countries wanted their citizens to contract polio. Of course, they didn’t. It’s just that they would have rather spent the significant sums of money on more pressing local problems. In essence, one wealthy country imposed their own moral judgement on the rest of the world, with little forethought about the potential unintended consequences. The voices of a few in the West grew to dominate and overpower those elsewhere–a kind of ethical colonialism, if you will.
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