In Oxford Handbook on AI Governance: The Role of Workers in AI Ethics and Governance

08/05/2021 ∙ by Nataliya Nedzhvetskaya, et al. ∙ 0

While the role of states, corporations, and international organizations in AI governance has been extensively theorized, the role of workers has received comparatively little attention. This chapter looks at the role that workers play in identifying and mitigating harms from AI technologies. Harms are the causally assessed impacts of technologies. They arise despite technical reliability and are not a result of technical negligence but rather of normative uncertainty around questions of safety and fairness in complex social systems. There is high consensus in the AI ethics community on the benefits of reducing harms but less consensus on mechanisms for determining or addressing harms. This lack of consensus has resulted in a number of collective actions by workers protesting how harms are identified and addressed in their workplace. We theorize the role of workers within AI governance and construct a model of harm reporting processes in AI workplaces. The harm reporting process involves three steps, identification, the governance decision, and the response. Workers draw upon three types of claims to argue for jurisdiction over questions of AI governance, subjection, control over the product of labor, and proximate knowledge of systems. Examining the past decade of AI related worker activism allows us to understand how different types of workers are positioned within a workplace that produces AI systems, how their position informs their claims, and the place of collective action in staking their claims. This chapter argues that workers occupy a unique role in identifying and mitigating harms caused by AI systems.

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