Dutch Comfort: The limits of AI governance through municipal registers

09/07/2021
by   Corinne Cath, et al.
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In this commentary, we respond to a recent editorial letter by Professor Luciano Floridi entitled 'AI as a public service: Learning from Amsterdam and Helsinki'. Here, Floridi considers the positive impact of these municipal AI registers, which collect a limited number of algorithmic systems used by the city of Amsterdam and Helsinki. There are a number of assumptions about AI registers as a governance model for automated systems that we seek to question. Starting with recent attempts to normalize AI by decontextualizing and depoliticizing it, which is a fraught political project that encourages what we call 'ethics theater' given the proven dangers of using these systems in the context of the digital welfare state. We agree with Floridi that much can be learned from these registers about the role of AI systems in municipal city management. Yet, the lessons we draw, on the basis of our extensive ethnographic engagement with digital well-fare states are distinctly less optimistic.

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