Carr Center Discussion Papers

2022
Populism, Authoritarianism, and Institutional Resistance: Constitutional Courts in the Game of Power
Justice Luís Roberto Barroso. 7/14/2022. “Populism, Authoritarianism, and Institutional Resistance: Constitutional Courts in the Game of Power.” Carr Center Discussion Paper Series. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Democratic constitutionalism was the victorious ideology of the 20th century, having defeated the alternatives that appeared over the decades: communism, fascism, Nazism, military regimes, and religious fundamentalism. However, in these first decades of the 21st century, something seems to not be going very well. Some describe it as a democratic recession. This paper identifies three phenomena that underlie this historical process: populism, extremism, and authoritarianism, as well as their political, economic-social, and cultural-identity causes. Then, after an analysis of the world context, this article focuses on the Brazilian experience in recent years, narrating the threats to constitutional legality and the institutional reaction. The final part discusses the limits and possibilities of constitutional courts in the exercise of their role of defending constitutionalism and democracy.

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22_carr_barroso.pdf
A More Equal Future? Political Equality, Discrimination, and Machine Learning
Joshua Simons and Eli Frankel. 5/3/2022. “A More Equal Future? Political Equality, Discrimination, and Machine Learning.” Technology and Democracy Discussion Paper Series. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Machine learning is everywhere. AI-evangelists promise that data-driven decision-making will not only boost organizational efficiency, it will also help make organizations fairer and advance social justice. Yet the effects of machine learning on social justice, human rights, and democracy will depend not on the technology itself, but on human choices about how to design and deploy it. Among the most important is whether and how to ensure systems do not reproduce and entrench pervasive patterns of inequality.

The authors argue that we need radical civil rights reforms to regulate AI in the digital age, and must return to the roots of civil rights. This paper is adapted from Josh Simons's forthcoming book, Algorithms for the People: Democracy in the Age of AI, published by Princeton University Press this Fall.

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How AI Fails Us
Divya Siddarth, Daron Acemoglu, Danielle Allen, Kate Crawford, James Evans, Michael Jordan, and E. Glen Weyl. 4/14/2022. “How AI Fails Us.” Technology and Democracy Discussion Paper Series. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The dominant vision of artificial intelligence imagines a future of large-scale autonomous systems outperforming humans in an increasing range of felds. This “actually existing AI” vision misconstrues intelligence as autonomous rather than social and relational. It is both unproductive and dangerous, optimizing for artificial metrics of human replication rather than for systemic augmentation, and tending to concentrate power, resources, and decision-making in an engineering elite. Alternative visions based on participating in and augmenting human creativity and cooperation have a long history and underlie many celebrated digital technologies such as personal computers and the internet. Researchers and funders should redirect focus from centralized autonomous general intelligence to a plurality of established and emerging approaches that extend cooperative and augmentative traditions as seen in successes such as Taiwan’s digital democracy project and collective intelligence platforms like Wikipedia.

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Building Human Rights into Intelligent-Community Design: Beyond Procurement
Phil Dawson, Faun Rice, and Maya Watson. 2/25/2022. “Building Human Rights into Intelligent-Community Design: Beyond Procurement.” Carr Center Discussion Paper Series. See full text.Abstract

Cities have emerged as test beds for digital innovation. Data-collecting devices, such as sensors and cameras, have enabled fine-grained monitoring of public services including urban transit, energy distribution, and waste management, yielding tremendous potential for improvements in efficiency and sustainability. At the same, there is a rising public awareness that without clear guidelines or sufficient safeguards, data collection and use in both public and private spaces can lead to negative impacts on a broad spectrum of human rights and freedoms. In order to productively move forward with intelligent-community projects and design them to meet their full potential in serving the public interest, a consideration of rights and risks is essential.

 

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Humanitarian Digital Ethics: A Foresight and Decolonial Governance Approach
Aarathi Krishnan. 1/20/2022. “Humanitarian Digital Ethics: A Foresight and Decolonial Governance Approach.” Carr Center Discussion Paper Series. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Just as rights are not static, neither is harm. The humanitarian system has always been critiqued as arguably colonial and patriarchal. As these systems increasingly intersect with Western, capitalist technology systems in the race of “for good” technology, how do governance systems ethically anticipate harm, not just now but into the future? Can humanitarian governance systems design mitigation or subversion mechanisms to not lock people into future harm, future inequity, or future indebtedness because of technology design and intervention? Instead of looking at digital governance in terms of control, weaving in foresight and decolonial approaches might liberate our digital futures so that it is a space of safety and humanity for all, and through this, birth new forms of digital humanism. 

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Rachel Ann Hulvey. 1/11/2022. “Companies as Courts? Google's Role Deciding Digital Human Rights Outcomes in the Right to be Forgotten.” Carr Center Discussion Paper Series. Publisher's VersionAbstract

One of the unwritten rules of the internet is that it was designed to never forget, a feature associated with emerging privacy harms from the availability of personal information captured online. Before the advent of search engines, discovering personal histories would have required hours of sifting through library records. Search engines present the opportunity to find immense amounts of personal details within seconds through a few simple keystrokes. When individuals experience privacy harms, they have limited recourse to demand changes from firms, as platform companies are in the business of making information more accessible.

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22_hulvey_companies-as-courts.pdf
2021
Black Lives Matter: Power, Perception, and Press
Teresa Chen. 12/17/2021. “Black Lives Matter: Power, Perception, and Press.” Topol Fellow Discussion Paper. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Our national reckoning with racism and police brutality, long in the making, was not inevitable. Activists and community leaders had to not only organize an effective, lasting movement against racist brutality carried out by the police but also navigate the media portrayal of the Black Lives Matter movement. The BLM movement forced the American public to see the dots and acknowledge the pattern of senseless violence carried out by the police against the black community. In so doing, the movement created the largest civil resistance campaign in American history, with millions of people across the country and around the world joining the protests.

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21_chen_topol_paper.pdf
Peru’s Indigenous and Rural Grassroots Civil Resistance Against the Extractive Sector
Mayumi Cornejo. 11/22/2021. “Peru’s Indigenous and Rural Grassroots Civil Resistance Against the Extractive Sector.” Topol Fellow Discussion Paper. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Peru is a resource-rich country where mining dominates the extractive industry. In fact, the mining industry — which has around 200 active mines throughout the country and 48 mining projects worth $57.7 billion in investment currently under development — accounts for 10% of Peru’s GDP and 60% of its exports. This creates an incentive for the government to protect and promote mining investment, many times at the expense of the interests of local communities. Therefore, it’s no wonder that some of the most visible social conflicts in Peru over the last two decades have been related to extractive industries.

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Grappling with the Rise of Right-Wing Populist Movements in Europe
Michelle Poulin. 11/8/2021. “Grappling with the Rise of Right-Wing Populist Movements in Europe.” Topol Fellow Discussion Paper. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Right-wing populist movements, which incorporate right-wing political theory and populist modalities, have become increasingly prominent and mainstream over the past decade, both in the Global North and Global South. European far-right populism shares many commonalities with other regional populist movements, but also has its own set of distinct methods, risks, and uncertainties. 

This discussion paper by Michelle Poulin, Carr Center Topol Fellow, will outline the unique characteristics of European far-right populist movements, the ways in which countries’ 20th century histories have influenced current day populist politics, and the online and offline organizational strategies that have helped right-wing movements influence the successes of right-wing political parties in recent years. It will also examine the rise of Germany’s far-right populist movement and the social factors that may have led to it. 

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Human Rights Implications of Algorithmic Impact Assessments: Priority Considerations to Guide Effective Development and Use
Brandie Nonnecke and Philip Dawson. 10/21/2021. “Human Rights Implications of Algorithmic Impact Assessments: Priority Considerations to Guide Effective Development and Use.” Carr Center Discussion Paper Series. See full text.Abstract

The public and private sectors are increasingly turning to the use of algorithmic or artificial intelligence impact assessments (AIAs) as a means to identify and mitigate harms from AI. While promising, lack of clarity on the proper scope, methodology, and best practices for AIAs could inadvertently perpetuate the harms they seek to mitigate, especially to human rights. We explore the emerging integration of the human rights legal framework into AI governance strategies, including the implementation of human rights impacts assessments (HRIAs) to assess AI. The benefits and drawbacks from recent implementations of AIAs and HRIAs to assess AI adopted by the public and private sectors are explored and considered in the context of an emerging trend toward the development of standards, certifications, and regulatory technologies for responsible AI governance practices. We conclude with priority considerations to better ensure that AIAs and their corresponding responsible AI governance strategies live up to their promise.

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The Power of Choosing Not to Build: Justice, Non-Deployment, and the Purpose of AI Optimization
Annette Zimmermann. 10/5/2021. “The Power of Choosing Not to Build: Justice, Non-Deployment, and the Purpose of AI Optimization”. See full text.Abstract

Are there any types of AI that should never be built in the first place? The “Non-Deployment Argument”—the claim that some forms of AI should never be deployed, or even built—has been subject to significant controversy recently: non-deployment skeptics fear that it will stifle innovation, and argue that the continued deployment and incremental optimization of AI tools will ultimately benefit everyone in society. However, there are good reasons to subject the view that we should always try to build, deploy, and gradually optimize new AI tools to critical scrutiny: in the context of AI, making things better is not always good enough. In specific cases, there are overriding ethical and political reasons—such as the ongoing presence of entrenched structures of social injustice—why we ought not to continue to build, deploy, and optimize particular AI tools for particular tasks. Instead of defaulting to optimization, we have a moral and political duty to critically interrogate and contest the value and purpose of using AI in a given domain in the first place.

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Human Rights and the Pandemic: The Other Half of the Story
Elizabeth M. Renieris. 10/2/2021. “Human Rights and the Pandemic: The Other Half of the Story.” Carr Center Discussion Paper Series. See full text.Abstract

Human rights are a broad array of civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights and freedoms that are universal and inalienable, inherent to the dignity of every human being. The application of human rights to digital technologies has generally focused on individual civil and political rights, such as the freedom of expression and privacy. However, as digital technologies evolve beyond traditional information and communications technologies to increasingly mediate access to everything from healthcare to employment, education, and participation in social and cultural life, an increasingly broad array of human rights are implicated. With humanity more reliant on digital tools and technologies than ever before, the stakes have never been more apparent than during the Covid-19 pandemic. Gripped by the magical potential of digital tools and technologies and the allure of simple solutions to complex governance challenges, governments and key stakeholders have adopted an exceedingly limited view of human rights in relation to these technologies, focusing almost exclusively on a narrow set of civil and political rights while virtually ignoring threats to economic, social, and cultural rights. For those already at the margins, this has exacerbated their digital exclusion. This paper calls for a more expansive view of human rights in relation to technology governance. After contextualizing the role of economic, social, and cultural rights in relation to digital technologies, this paper examines how such rights have been largely absent from the discourse around technologies deployed in the pandemic (“pandemic tech”), as well as the consequences of that omission. The paper then explores how a recalibration of human rights in relation to digital technologies, specifically pandemic tech, could help prevent geopolitical fracturing, reorient the conversation around people rather than technology, and provide a critical backstop against the runaway commercialization that threatens the exercise and enjoyment of fundamental rights by individuals and communities.

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Public Health, Technology, and Human Rights: Lessons Learned from Digital Contact Tracing
Maria Carnovale and Khahlil Louisy. 9/27/2021. “Public Health, Technology, and Human Rights: Lessons Learned from Digital Contact Tracing.” Carr Center Discussion Paper Series. See full text.Abstract

To mitigate inefficiencies in manual contact tracing processes, Digital contact tracing and exposure notifications systems were developed for use as public-interest technologies during the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) global pandemic. Effective implementation of these tools requires alignment across several factors, including local regulations and policies and trust in government and public health officials. Careful consideration should also be made to minimize any potential conflicts with existing processes in public health, which has demonstrated effectiveness. Four unique cases—of Ireland, Guayaquil (Ecuador), Haiti, and the Philippines—detailed in this paper will highlight the importance of upholding the principles of Scientific Validity, Necessity, Time-Boundedness, and Proportionality.

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The Fourth Generation of Human Rights: Epistemic Rights in Digital Lifeworlds
Mathias Risse. 9/17/2021. “The Fourth Generation of Human Rights: Epistemic Rights in Digital Lifeworlds.” Carr Center Discussion Paper Series. See full text.Abstract

In contrast to China’s enormous efforts to upgrade its system of governance to a new technological level built around a stupefying amount of data collection and electronic scoring, countries committed to democracy and human rights did not upgrade their systems. Instead of adjusting democracy and human rights to the new technological possibilities, those countries ended up with surveillance capitalism. It is vital for the sheer survival of those ideas about governance to perform such an upgrade. The present project aims to contribute to that. I propose a framework of epistemic actorhood in terms of four roles, and characterize digital lifeworlds and what matters about them, in terms of both how they fit in with Max Tegmark’s distinction among various stages of human life and how they give rise to their own episteme and the data episteme, with its immense possibilities of infopower (vocabulary inspired by Foucault). A set of epistemic rights that strengthen existing human rights—as part of a fourth generation of rights—is needed to protect epistemic actorhood in those roles, which would be a long way towards performing this kind of upgrade. In the long run, as we progress into Life 3.0, we need a new kind of human right, the right to the exercise of genuinely human intelligence. The good news is that, to the extent that we can substantiate the meaning of human life in the uncaring world that natural science describes, we can substantiate such a right vis-à-vis nonhuman intelligent life. We must hope that arguments of this sort can persuade a superior intelligence—which is by definition, massively beyond ours, and hard to anticipate.

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Media Freedom and Technological Change
Vivek Krishnamurthy, Mark Latonero, Rachel Kuchma, Elif Nur Kumru, and Geneviève Plumptre. 8/11/2021. “Media Freedom and Technological Change.” Carr Center Discussion Paper Series. See full text.Abstract

The concept of media freedom developed in the 20th century alongside efforts to advance governmental transparency and accountability in democracies. Media freedom empowers journalists, enabling them to act as checks on governments and other powerful social actors, and allowing them to contribute to a democratic discourse that is fact-based and accessible. The principle also provides an analytical framework for interrogating the central role that the news media plays in democratic societies. Even so, current understandings of media freedom remain rooted in the historical postwar moment that gave rise to the concept: a period that predates the information revolution and the proliferation of new communications technologies.

Technological change has transformed the economics of the news industry and undermined the ad-supported business models of legacy media organizations. This destabilization poses a fundamental challenge to the old model of media freedom, forcing questions of who today is entitled to media freedom and whether current media freedom protections are sufficient. To ensure the ongoing relevance of media freedom, the concept must evolve to address the contemporary conditions of news production, and the new impediments to gathering and disseminating fact-based information in the public interest.
 

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Artificial Intelligence and the Past, Present, and Future of Democracy
Mathias Risse. 7/28/2021. “Artificial Intelligence and the Past, Present, and Future of Democracy.” Carr Center Discussion Paper Series. See full text.Abstract

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.

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The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre: A Panel Discussion
The Carr Center Human Rights for Policy. 6/8/2021. “The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre: A Panel Discussion .” Carr Center Discussion Paper Series. Read the Discussion.Abstract

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 Promise and Pitfalls of the Facebook Oversight Board
Flynn Coleman, Brandie Nonnecke, and Elizabeth M. Renieris. 5/6/2021. “The Promise and Pitfalls of the Facebook Oversight Board.” Carr Center Discussion Paper Series. Read the Discussion.Abstract

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.

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Biden's 100 Days
Carr Center Human Rights for Policy. 4/29/2021. “Biden's 100 Days.” Carr Center Discussion Paper Series. See full text.Abstract

We asked faculty and fellows from the Carr Center to share their insight on the first 100 days of the Biden Administration. Here's what they had to say

 

Data as Collectively Generated Patterns: Making Sense of Data Ownership
Mathias Risse. 4/26/2021. “Data as Collectively Generated Patterns: Making Sense of Data Ownership.” Carr Center Discussion Paper Series. See full text.Abstract

Data ownership is power. Who should hold that power? How should data be owned?  The importance of data ownership explains why it has been analogized to other domains where ownership is better understood. Several data-as proposals are on the table: data as oil, as intellectual property, as personhood, as salvage, data as labor, etc. Author Mathias Risse proposes another way of thinking about data.  His view characterizes data in ways that make them accessible to ownership considerations and can be expressed as a data-as view: data as collectively generated patterns. Unlike the alternatives, data as collectively generated patterns does not create any equivalence with another domain where ownership is already well-understood. It reveals how ownership considerations enter, but we must explore afresh how they do. Accordingly, he proposes a way for ownership considerations to bear on data once we understand them that way. And if we did understand them that way, the internet should presumably be designed very differently from what we have now. 

 

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