Ethical artificial intelligence Could Switzerland take the lead

The debate on contact-tracing highlights the urgency of tackling unregulated technologies like artificial intelligence (AI). With a strong democracy and reputation for first-class research, Switzerland has the potential to be at the forefront of shaping ethical AI.

What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)? “Artificial intelligence is either the best or the worst thing ever to happen to humanity,” the prominent scientist, Stephen Hawking, who died in 2018, once said.

An expert group set up by the European Commission presented a draft of ethics guidelines for trustworthy AI at the end of 2018, but as of yet there is no agreed global strategy for defining common principles, which would include rules on transparency, privacy protection, fairness, and justice.

Thanks to its unique features – a strong democracy, its position of neutrality, and world-class research – Switzerland is well positioned to play a leading role in shaping the future of AI that adheres to ethical standards. The Swiss government recognizes the importance of AI to move the country forward, and with that in mind, has been involved in discussions at the international level.

What is AI?

There is no single accepted definition of Artificial Intelligence. Often, it’s divided into two categories, Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) which strives to closely replicate human behaviour while Narrow Artificial Intelligence focuses on single tasks, such as face recognition, automated translations and content recommendations, such as videos on YouTube.

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However, on the domestic front, the debate has just begun, albeit in earnest as Switzerland and other nations are confronted with privacy concerns surrounding the use of new technologies like contact-tracing apps, whether they use AI or not, to stop the spread of Covid-19.

The European initiative – the Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing initiative PEPP-PT – advocated a centralized data approach that raised concern about its transparency and governance. However, it was derailed when a number of nations, including Switzerland, decided in favour of a decentralized and privacy-enhancing system, called DP-3T (Decentralized Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing). The final straw for PEPP-PT was when Germany decided to exit as well.


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