Published online by Cambridge University Press: 26 May 2021
1. AI has the power to transform our societies and to have a profound impact across various societal domains. Consequently, it has sparked a debate about the principles and values that should guide its development and use. The concerns include loss of jobs, misuse, discrimination and so on. Against this background, we have in the past years witnessed an ever richer debate on how AI ought and ought not to be (used). Participants in this debate rely not only (and perhaps some would say too little) on the law, that is what is (il-)legal, to provide an answer to this question.
In this chapter, we would like to provide the overarching ethical and legal framework underlying this debate by focusing on three aspects. To fully understand the impact of AI on the law (cf. subsequent chapters of this book), we present the main ethical challenges that AI raises and the principles that have been adopted to tackle them (part 2). We then touch upon a common feature of the policy documents and ethics guidelines on AI that have been published so far: there is a need for some form of regulation. Therefore, before we move on to form and substance of a possible regulation, we first answer some fundamental questions, namely: what is regulation and what, when and how exactly should we regulate (part 3)? Finally, we provide an overview of AI governance in some of the jurisdictions that have already taken policy actions on AI. As this domain is evolving fast, we do not aim to give a comprehensive overview. Rather, we intend to provide a bird's eye view of the direction in which the ethical and legal framework on AI might evolve the coming years (part 4). We conclude with summarising the main findings (part 5).
ETHICS OF AI
2. Ethics, which can be described as the study of what is good and bad moral behaviour, has been relied on to the same extent as – and perhaps even more heavily than – the law in the debate on what AI ought (not) to be or do. Although this reliance on ethics has been criticised by some as ‘ethics-washing’, approaching AI from both the perspective of ethics and the law has its merits..