The Carr Center for Human Rights Policy serves as the hub of the Harvard Kennedy School’s research, teaching, and training in the human rights domain. The center embraces a dual mission: to educate students and the next generation of leaders from around the world in human rights policy and practice; and to convene and provide policy-relevant knowledge to international organizations, governments, policymakers, and businesses.
Artificial intelligence generates challenges for human rights. Inviolability of human life is the central idea behind human rights, an underlying implicit assumption being the hierarchical superiority of humankind to other forms of life meriting less protection. These basic assumptions are questioned through the anticipated arrival of entities that are not alive in familiar ways but nonetheless are sentient and intellectually and perhaps eventually morally superior to humans. To be sure, this scenario may never come to pass and in any event lies in a part of the future beyond current grasp. But it is urgent to get this matter on the agenda. Threats posed by technology to other areas of human rights are already with us. My goal here is to survey these challenges in a way that distinguishes short-, medium-term and long-term perspectives
Notes:For Academic Citation: Mathias Risse. "Human Rights and Artificial Intelligence: An Urgently Needed Agenda?" CCDP 2018-002, Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, April 2018.
Amidst bleak prognostications about the future, the human rights movement offers a beacon of hope for securing a livable world. The movement’s universality, supranationalism, and expanding emancipatory potential serve as inspiration and guide for the larger project of global transformation. The sweeping vision embodied in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights has experienced constant renewal and steadfast legitimacy in the tumultuous postwar world. It has been a foundation for the pursuit of supranational governance and an antidote to the notion that the ends justify the means. The human rights movement, despite its imperfections, has a key role to play in the transformational change in human values crucial to building a just, flourishing future.
The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla, resulted in the deaths of 17 people.
Tragically, from January 1 to March 21, 2018, there were 3,088 gun-related deaths and 5,355 gun-related injuries in the United States. Gun violence is a public health problem. But it’s also a human rights problem. It is time to turn to international human rights and moral and social norms, which ground obligations for individuals and business organizations to limit gun ownership.
Human rights are entitlements that all people have by virtue of their humanity. Gun violence puts a number of human rights at risk. Most obviously, it threatens Article 6 of the United Nation’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: “Every human being has the inherent right to life.” Studies show that the mere presence of guns increases the probability of crime, suicide, and accidents.
Ethics asks us to promote the good and to prevent harm to others, especially when we can do so with little inconvenience to ourselves. Individuals are not alone in having moral responsibilities. In the eyes of the law, corporations are persons; they also have moral responsibilities. Businesses that manufacture guns have a moral responsibility to ensure that their products are not used in acts of violence. Businesses are also subject to the far more demanding obligations of international human rights.
“The Carr Center is building a bridge between ideas on human rights and the practice on the ground. Right now we are at a critical juncture. The pace of technological change and the rise of authoritarian governments are both examples of serious challenges to the flourishing of individual rights. It’s crucial that Harvard and the Kennedy School continue to be a major influence in keeping human rights ideals alive. The Carr Center is a focal point for this important task.”
- Mathias Risse