Technology & Human Rights

Examining how technological advancements affect the future of human rights.

While recognizing the enormous progress that societies have made since the establishment of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, technological advancements have inevitably profound implications for the human rights framework.

From a practical perspective, technology can help move the human rights agenda forward. For instance, the use of satellite data can monitor the flow of displaced people; artificial intelligence can assist with image recognition to gather data on rights abuses; and the use of forensic technology can reconstruct crime scenes and hold perpetrators accountable. Yet for the multitude of areas in which emerging technologies advance the human rights agenda, technological developments have equal capacity to undermine efforts. From authoritarian states monitoring political dissidents by way of surveillance technologies, to the phenomenon of “deepfakes” destabilizing the democratic public sphere, ethical and policy-oriented implications must be taken into consideration with the development of technological innovations.  

Technological advancements also introduce new actors to the human rights framework. The movement has historically focused on the role of the state in ensuring rights and justice. Today, technological advancements and the rise of artificial intelligence and machine learning, in particular, necessitate interaction, collaboration, and coordination with leaders from business and technology in addition to government.

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Upcoming Events

2022 Oct 06

Shadow Politics: Disinformation in The Digital Age

4:00pm to 5:00pm

Location: 

Virtual Event (Registration Required)

Towards Life 3.0: Ethics and Technology in the 21st Century is a talk series organized and facilitated by Dr. Mathias Risse, Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, and Berthold Beitz Professor in Human Rights, Global Affairs, and Philosophy and Sushma Raman, Executive Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. Drawing inspiration from the title of Max Tegmark’s book, Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial...

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2022 Oct 20

The Fight for Privacy: Protecting Dignity, Identity, and Love in the Digital Age

11:00am to 12:00pm

Location: 

Virtual Event (Registration Required)

Towards Life 3.0: Ethics and Technology in the 21st Century is a talk series organized and facilitated by Dr. Mathias Risse, Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, and Berthold Beitz Professor in Human Rights, Global Affairs, and Philosophy and Sushma Raman, Executive Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. Drawing inspiration from the title of Max Tegmark’s book, Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial...

Read more about The Fight for Privacy: Protecting Dignity, Identity, and Love in the Digital Age

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2022 Oct 27

The End of Digital Democracy and What We Can Do About It

4:00pm to 5:00pm

Location: 

Virtual Event (Registration Required)

Towards Life 3.0: Ethics and Technology in the 21st Century is a talk series organized and facilitated by Dr. Mathias Risse, Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, and Berthold Beitz Professor in Human Rights, Global Affairs, and Philosophy and Sushma Raman, Executive Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. Drawing inspiration from the title of Max Tegmark’s book, Life 3.0: Being...

Read more about The End of Digital Democracy and What We Can Do About It

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Select Publications

Online Platforms & Mental Health: A Policy Proposal

Citation:

Maria Carnovale and Samuel A. Ramirez. 9/22/2022. “Online Platforms & Mental Health: A Policy Proposal.” Carr Center Discussion Paper Series. Publisher's Version
22_carnovale.pdf2.05 MB
Online Platforms & Mental Health: A Policy Proposal

Abstract:

In recent years, there has been growing concern regarding the unintended mental health impact of online platforms and whether they might be driving a public health crisis, especially among children and teens. There is emerging evidence that spending too much time on digital platforms—like gaming sites, online pornography sites, and social media—can be associated with negative mental health effects such as depression and social anxiety, at least in some users. Yet most policy action and advocacy in this industry have focused on the issues of privacy and misinformation, relegating the mental health impact of digital technology as a secondary byproduct of the industry. In this paper, we provide an overview of the documented negative mental health effects associated with prolonged use of video games, online pornography, and social media. We outline the measures that have been taken to address the mental health impact of these technologies. Finally, we suggest that induced overuse is at the heart of the problem and we propose an incentive-based policy mechanism to address it.

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author/date: Maria Carnovale & Samuel A. Ramirez | September 2022
teaser text: An overview of the documented negative mental health effects associated with prolonged use of video games, online pornography, and social media, and a policy proposal to address these issues.
Last updated on 09/27/2022

The Future of Human Rights

Citation:

Austin Choi-Fitzpatrick. 9/21/2022. “The Future of Human Rights.” Carr Center Discussion Paper Series. Publisher's Version
22_choi-fitzpatrick.pdf2.22 MB
The Future of Human Rights

Abstract:

Human rights are dynamic, rather than static. The contemporary status quo emerged via a three-phase process, from conceptualization, to clarification, and to consolidation. The present is an interregnum between two significant eras, a fact which the generations metaphor does not adequately capture. The future of human rights will be shaped by how individuals and institutions engage with advances in technologies that transform and extend the mind and body. Particular attention is paid to innovation in superintelligence, social robots, and augmented humans. One implication of this analysis is that changes to the mind and body are likely to transform the subject of rights and to require the development of more a sophisticated rights ecology. Human rights scholars and advocates should engage in a proactive and ambitious program to prepare for such developments. Such efforts will ensure there are rights to clarify and consolidate in the era to come.

Read the paper.

teaser text: The future of human rights will be shaped by how individuals and institutions engage with advances in technologies that transform and extend the mind and body.
author/date: Austin Choi-Fitzpatrick | September 2022
Last updated on 09/27/2022

Handle With Care: Autonomous Weapons and Why the Laws of War Are Not Enough

Citation:

Linda Eggert. 9/16/2022. “Handle With Care: Autonomous Weapons and Why the Laws of War Are Not Enough.” Edited by Joshua Simmons. Technology and Democracy Discussion Paper Series. Publisher's Version
Handle With Care: Autonomous Weapons and Why the Laws of War Are Not Enough

Abstract:

In spring 2013, a global coalition, the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, launched with a mission to advocate for a ban on “machines that determine whom to kill.” Nine years later, almost to the day at the time of writing, no such ban exists. Autonomous weapons research is alive and well, and artificial intelligence has made it to the fore of the Pentagon’s future weapons development strategy. The latest Review Conference of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW), a primary forum for international talks on lethal autonomous weapon systems, failed to achieve consensus on whether new international laws are needed to address threats posed by autonomous weapons technology. Meanwhile, high-tech military powers, including China, Russia, Israel, South Korea, the US, and the UK, continue to invest heavily in the development of autonomous weapon systems.


One especially widely shared worry is that AWS may not be able to comply with the laws of armed conflict. This paper warns that, though seemingly natural and ubiquitous, appeals to international humanitarian law (IHL) should be handled with care. By interrogating compliance with IHL as a criterion for assessing the moral permissibility of deployment, this paper illuminates an altogether different dimension of the debate: what criteria we should apply to begin with, as we confront the moral and legal conundrums of the increasing autonomization of warfare.

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teaser text: What criteria we should apply, as we confront the moral and legal conundrums of the increasing autonomization of warfare?
author/date: Linda Eggert | September 2022
Last updated on 09/22/2022
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“Global civil society and transnational advocacy networks have played an important role in social movements and struggles for social change. Looking ahead, these movements need to coalesce around the impact of technology on society, in particular harnessing the promise, challenging the perils, and looking at maintaining public and private spheres that respect creativity, autonomy, diversity, and freedom of thought and expression.”

- Sushma Raman