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This second edition of the International Workshop on Artificial Intelligence for Equity, or AI4Eq, proposes to build on the success of the first, but identifies three twists of perspective. Firstly, the workshop proposes not to focus so much on the development of AI technology itself, but on the societal impact and implications of that technology. For that reason, we are delighted that the second edition of the workshop will be held in association with ISTAS2021, the Flagship Conference of IEEE SSIT, the Society for Social Implications of Technology.

Second International Workshop on Artificial Intelligence for Equity (AI4Eq): Against Modern Indentured Servitude
Wednesday, October 27, 2021
6 a.m.–2 p.m. MST (9 a.m.–5 p.m. EDT)
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The second twist of perspective is that rather than taking a sort of top-down, policy-oriented approach, we are proposing to take a sort of bottom-up, people-centric approach. The central question of system co-design (between the developers and the users) is then less about the ethics of the developers mandated by universal declaration than about the local empowerment of the users, and defining the opportunities, boundaries and guardrails that determine minimal and maximal rights to self-organisation and self-determination. The third twist of perspective is within those minimal and maximal rights, is to focus on issues of social justice, in particular, the empowerment of marginalized communities and addressing asymmetries of power within the Digital Society itself.

In particular, this asymmetry of power within socio-technical systems, especially those involving AI, raises the prospect of an insidious threat that needs urgent attention. The issue of modern slavery has been identified by the UN as “the first human rights issue to arouse wide international concern yet it still continues today and slavery-like practices also remain a grave and persistent problem.” In this workshop, we will particularly focus on what might be called “modern indentured servitude.”

Indentured servitude is a form of labor in which one person is contracted to work for another until a debt is paid off: in its less unreasonable forms, it can support apprenticeships where students can learn a trade from a master professional; in its more dubious forms, it can act as a social filter by ensuring that access to desirable professions can only be achieved through unpaid internships which only the already wealthy can afford to accept; and at its very worst form the size of the debt rises faster than the ability to repay it and the indebted party can never escape. The aim of this workshop is to examine digital versions of indentured servitude, i.e. forms of indentured servitude that occur in the Digital Society, deliberately or as a degenerative unintended consequence, covertly or overtly, and/or because of an unethical misuse of Artificial Intelligence. Such degenerative consequences include, but are not limited to, surveillance capitalism and techno-feudalism.

The workshop will be organized around panel sessions addressing four inter-connected streams: well-being, youth, social care, and community. By raising awareness of the broad range of inter-disciplinary research and societal implications, we hope to help build towards not just sustainable development but also sustainable empowerment: a digital society that provides and protects the opportunity for and capability of all people to live and work together as free and equal citizens through the preservation of civic dignity.

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