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.
Located at the intersection of political philosophy, philosophy of technology and political history, this essay reflects on medium and long-term prospects and challenges for democracy that arise from AI, emphasizing how critical a stage this is. Modern democracies involve structures for collective choice that periodically empower relatively few people to steer the social direction for everybody. As in all forms of governance, technology shapes how this unfolds. Specialized AI changes what philosophers of technology would call the materiality of democracy, not just in the sense that independent actors deploy different tools. AI changes how collective decision making unfolds and what its human participants are like (how they see themselves in relation to their environment, what relationships they have and how those are designed, and generally what form of human life can get realized). AI and democracy are not “natural allies:” it takes active design choices and much political will for AI so serve democratic purposes.
May 31, 2021, marks the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, when a violent white mob nearly destroyed the formerly thriving and prosperous African American community in the Greenwood District of Tulsa, also known as Black Wall Street. Over 300 African Americans were killed, and thousands were displaced. Hundreds of homes and businesses burned to the ground. At the time, Greenwood, like so many African American neighborhoods and townships across the United States, was situated in a particular spatial and temporal context marked by both progress and promise, as well as violence and discrimination.
In the decades since, the Massacre was covered up, local officials obstructed the redevelopment of Greenwood, and the local chapter of the KKK became one of the largest in the US. We spoke with a group of leaders, policymakers, academics, and researchers to discuss the historical legacy of the Massacre, its effects on current-day policy and organizing debates related to racial justice, and the movement for reparations. We spoke with a group of leaders, policymakers, academics, and researchers to discuss the historical legacy of the Massacre, its effects on current-day policy and organizing debates related to racial justice, and the movement for reparations. Read the discussion.
The Facebook Oversight Board recently issued its first decisions on content removals by Facebook. See what some of the Carr Center Technology and Human Rights Fellows had to say about the benefits, challenges, and risks of external oversight boards for platform governance and accountability.
“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