Rights effects of AI

Samir Morcos
Thursday 17 Feb 2022

The greater use of artificial intelligence will help to secure more political and social rights, but it could also drastically compromise people’s right to work.

In a few years’ time, artificial intelligence (AI) and its infinite applications will likely prevail in all fields of life through the use of machines that can carry out complex operations, adopt different methodologies, and use planning skills. 

These machines will be able to do almost everything that people do, and their prevalence will be seen in the industrial, scientific, creative, cultural, administrative, artistic, entertainment, sports, development, and environmental arenas.

AI systems already possess rational capabilities, communication skills, and memory abilities, in addition to the ability to see, reinterpret, and employ things for a variety of purposes and invent creative systems that can carry out human functions in such a way that can easily compete with humans.

The reality on the ground has revealed that AI systems used in the fields of agriculture, industry, scientific research, and entertainment, among others, have been able to create an alternative path for intelligent human behaviour in an automated form and produce the equivalent to human intelligence.

Some people have realised that new life patterns will be shaped by the expansion of the use of AI systems in many areas, especially the scientific, medical, and environmental fields. However, two other main fields that will be much affected in this regard are the public domain and the labour market.

In the public domain, many people believe that the virtual sphere will become a reality that will see interactive movements among citizens through what has become known as the democracy of digital and artificial intelligence. Citizenship will be achieved among all without discrimination and in full equality, and it will not be monopolised by the elite or a specific group of people. 

Digital platforms will be the main way for practising citizenship, and AI systems will become a means of training, planning, assembly, information, guidance, accountability, control, the formation of public opinion, building alliances, and shaping common interests between classes, social strata, parties, political and civil entities, and cultural affiliations locally, regionally, and globally.

Regarding the labour market, studies have confirmed that the Fourth Industrial Revolution based on AI will negatively affect global labour markets. For example, it is expected that about 50 per cent of the current employment in the US will be dispensed with in favour of AI systems that will gradually dominate all sectors, translating into a social crisis due to unemployment and poverty.

As a result, as the world advances into the digital age and AI systems, citizenship will be exposed to important imbalances. On the one hand, there will be an increased citizen presence in the new virtual digital public sphere and thus the increased enjoyment of civil, social, and cultural rights. On the other hand, the labour market will suffer and make the right of people to work more fragile.

Recapping the bigger picture, one researcher described things best when he said that “our world, which has windows through which some can pass upwards, still has windows from which many will fall into the abyss.” AI is an opportunity for the exercise of citizenship and political and civil rights, but it is also a threat to economic and social rights.

AI systems with their huge potential will be available to be used by all in the virtual domain. However, these same systems will stand in the way of citizens in the labour market and will prevent them from securing jobs that grant them a fair and decent life.

This is a dilemma that raises many questions about the impact of technological progress on civil and political and economic and social rights. Is technical progress consistent with imperfect citizenship? Are there opportunities to correct the relationship between the digital era and AI systems, on the one hand, and citizenship and citizenship rights, on the other?

* The writer is an intellectual and author.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 17 February, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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