Human rights: Seychelles' parliamentarians debate AI and future tech for proposed private members' bill

ICT |Author: Sedrick Nicette Edited By: Betymie Bonnelame | March 7, 2024, Thursday @ 16:56| 4159 views

Members of the National Assembly at the AI seminar on Wednesday. (National Assembly)

(Seychelles News Agency) - Members of the Seychelles National Assembly learned more about the benefits and dangers of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and other advanced technologies through a seminar in which the protection of human rights was at the forefront.

With AI being an ever increasing part of modern technologies, making even the most difficult tasks for humans much easier, there remain concerns that it could be harmful to humans if its uses are not regulated and handled properly.

According to the International Business Machines Corporation (IBM), Artificial Intelligence or AI, is technology that enables computers and machines to simulate human intelligence and problem-solving capabilities. On its own or combined with other technologies, AI can perform tasks that would otherwise require human intelligence or intervention.

It was to highlight these risks that a seminar titled "Artificial Intelligence - The Future" was organised on Wednesday at the auditorium of the Supreme Court. Members of the National Assembly were in attendance, and people involved in technology and human rights.

The seminar came about after the discussions on the subject of AI and its risks were initiated by Srdjana Janosevic, a local news editor, who presented her concerns in the form of a proposed draft private members' bill that would be adopted in a bipartisan way, titled the "Pro-Human Technology Bill," which is expected to be discussed in a working group of the National Assembly. Private members' bills are bills proposed by one member of the National Assembly and then seconded by another before a vote of the whole Assembly is made. They are rare in Seychelles.

The proposed bill focuses on extra employment protection for humans, as well as the rights of children to develop their natural intelligence in cases where AI is used in the education system.

Additionally, the bill recognises the importance of preserving citizens' rights to access government services and essential private sector services without mandatory internet usage, protection from audio and visual digital forgeries, ensuring the right to refuse the use of digital currencies without alternative means of payment, to refuse microchipped implants, and provides for protection against discrimination related to the adoption or rejection of transhumanist technologies, according to the document's "objects and reasons".

Mancienne said the bill is still far from getting to the National Assembly. (National Assembly)  Photo License: CC-BY

The Speaker of the National Assembly, Roger Mancienne, said, "This bill is still far from getting to the National Assembly. There will be a lot of work and discussion to be had on whether or not to take such measures proposed by the bill."

There were other speakers at the seminars, the principal secretary of the Department of Information Communications Technology (DICT), Benjamin Choppy and the University of Seychelles' senior lecturer Robin Zarine.

The seminar highlighted the risks with examples such as the harm of doctored images on the lives of those affected and Janosevic shared a fully AI-powered news channel, which uses AI-created journalists, which may impact jobs of journalists as well as trust in the news industry.

Another danger of AI is that it can end up replacing most human tasks, reducing the number of available job opportunities, while its continued technological advancements could even lead to AI harming humans, she explained.

Janosevic stated in an interview with the media, that she proposed the bill to the MNAs to see if they want to take it further as it will have the aim of protecting humans from being overly dependent on such technologies, and also reduce the risk of individuals potentially being harmed by AI and transhumanist technologies, like microchip implants.

"This bill has aspects such as that you do not need to have internet to access government services or essential services, where you will always have the right to come in person to access some services," said Janosevic.

She added that other aspects of this bill are to also prohibit certain high risk technologies, such as self-autonomous robots, which can harm humans.

"Some might say that these are all things about the future," added Janosevic, continuing by saying; "but it's all actually happening (now), so it's important to have a law that prepares us for that when it arrives."

The final presentation was titled "Artificial Intelligence: Its Value, Application and Impact in Government" made by the principal secretary of the Department of Information Communications Technology (DICT), Benjamin Choppy.

He told SNA on Thursday that for DICT "it is the level of priority that the government sets which determines the resources and the level of focus it assigns to any area in ICT. Presently the usage of AI technologies and ethical concerns around it is definitely deemed as relevant and we will need to have a clear legal framework that encompasses all issues on the matter."

Choppy added that however, DICT for now is placing more emphasis on the use of AI technologies to increase the efficiency of services where opportunities present themselves in the government.

"AI is a very rapidly evolving field and correspondingly the associated thinking on the legal framework around it is quite dynamic. There is a lot of work being done around this internationally. Given this and the amount of research being done on such, we prefer to wait and see what settles of these international movements so that we can identify best practices," he explained.

In relation to the proposed bill that was presented, Choppy said DICT has reservations about certain points but is of the view that it needs to study it in more depth and consult more widely before giving a position on it.

"The bill touches much more than AI and ventures into medicine, medical technology, biotechnology and other technologies. Given this scope, we do not think DICT is the correct party to be responsible for it as it is beyond our mandate. Looking at the scope we think that these are more related to general human rights issues in the context of the emerging technologies," he added.


Tags: National Assembly, Artificial Intelligence, University of Seychelles

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