Blogpost for the AI-MAPS project by Gabriele Jacobs
The image shows lips, a hand and a finger telling to be silent

Social norms get coded into algorithms. This is for me the reason why I engage as social scientist in AI and public safety. All my life I had a fundamental trust in our democratic system and was a bit puzzled that friends and colleagues coming from countries with oppressive political systems also met the German or Dutch governmental institutions with some suspicion. I was convinced that when we witness injustice it’s not only our right, but also our civil obligation to voice our concerns. Only in this way we can improve our societies and jointly build a free and just future.

Since the last Dutch elections I lost this fundamental - and maybe naive -  trust and for the first time I feel the hesitancy also in my heart. I became confused and afraid and I became silent. The shameless islamophobia, the polarised reactions to the situation in Palestine and Israel, the questioning of our free and international academic community hurt me and make me sad and concerned.

This dynamic is to me the real danger, and not the fear that robots could become a threat to humanity or any other abstract fear about AI. It is us humans who program the codes and act on the results and the real question is if we can trust the democratic beliefs and respect for human rights of our fellow-humans.

Is all hope lost? Absolutely not. When I read the deeply human reflections of my master students, when I listen to the rich academic analysis of our Dutch and international speakers in our meetings and the balanced ethical reflections of our public and private stakeholders I know that there is a big group of people who keep on dreaming and working with open hearts and minds. The other day a student said in a master thesis circle that they were surprised why all these senior people in the organisation they were studying are so afraid and silent when they witness unethical behaviour. I took this to heart. You are right dear student; silence of us senior people is certainly not the answer. This is why we keep on exploring in AI-MAPS the power of conversation, the power of constructive frictions, the power of democracy. I see that our concept of “critical friendship” is starting to bear fruits. Based on trust we developed with each other and our stakeholders we start to engage in more difficult and uneasy conversations. I am very grateful for this experience and it gives me hope.

Related content
Blogpost for the AI-MAPS project by Michaël Grauwde
Blog for AI MAPS, Marc Steen, May 2024
AI MAPS ELSA figures
Related links
Overview blogposts | AI Maps

Compare @count study programme

  • @title

    • Duration: @duration
Compare study programmes