We need an AI constitution that protects our civil rights.

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The author is Co-Founder and Chief Scientist of Dionysus Health.

You were passed over for a job today. You were denied a loan. You, or perhaps your child, was rejected from a top university. And you didn't even know it happened. Every day, in the deepest, most constitutionally protected parts of our lives, algorithms are making decisions that no human could ever justify face to face.

Under pressure, companies are debating ethical frameworks and establishing advisory councils. We don't need an AI manifesto – we need a constitution. As used today, AI is not exactly compatible with civil rights.

As Chief Scientist at one of the first companies to use AI in hiring, I built the system that led you to the job. The mass employers who were our customers did not have to wait for your job application. We actually made the request for you, whether you know it or not. But when the AI ​​decides who gets hired, you'll never know why it wasn't you. A human being asking you about your age, your politics or family planning during the employment process is an actionable violation of your civil rights. AI doing this without your knowledge is completely wrong, but completely hidden from view.

In addition to hiring, some employers are fiddling with systems to automatically fire less productive workers. But why fire people if you can “help” them choose to quit? Other companies are developing machine-learning-based personality assessments that predict applicants will demonstrate tendencies to seek wage increases, support unionization or quit jobs.

Credit drives economic mobility in America, even as it has historically been a powerful tool for discrimination. I have worked on several projects to reduce this bias using AI. However, what I learned is that even if an algorithm works exactly as intended, it is still designed entirely to improve the financial returns of the lender who made it. Paid for. The loan application process is already insurmountable for most people, and now your hopes for home ownership or small business funding can be dashed in 50 milliseconds.

Every week there are AI-powered breakthroughs in health and biotech. In health it's meant to be unbiased, but if you're out, that amazing new diagnostic tool can't accurately diagnose you. How would you know if an unknown company's proprietary algorithm was trained on patients like you? And if all the doctors in your area are using the same tool, you have nowhere to go for a second opinion. When an AI-powered doctor tells you that you're just being hysterical, an AI-powered insurance company is unlikely to agree.

At law, the right to counsel and judicial review is a constitutional guarantee in the United States and an established civil right around the world. These are the foundations of your civil liberties. When algorithms act as an expert witness, testifying against you but immune to cross-examination, these rights are not just lost, they cease to exist.

People are not perfect. Neither ethics training for AI engineers nor legislation by woefully uninformed politicians can change this simple truth. I don't need to believe that Big Tech CEOs are bad actors or that big companies are bad guys to understand that what's in their best interest isn't always in my best interest. The framers of the US Constitution recognized this simple truth and sought to harness human nature for the greater good. The Constitution did not simply assume that people would always work for this greater good. Instead he defined a dynamic mechanism—a balance of self-interest and power—that would force compromise and good governance. His vision of treating people as real actors rather than better angels created one of the greatest frameworks for governance in history.

Imagine you were offered an AI-powered test for postpartum depression. My company developed the same test and it has the power to change your life, but you can choose not to use it for fear that we might sell the results to data brokers or activist politicians. You have the right to have our AI work only for your health. This is why I founded an independent non-profit, The Human Trust, which holds all the data and runs all the algorithms with your sole responsibility. No mother should have to choose between a life-saving medical test and her civil rights.

AI can do amazing things. But civil rights cannot exist in a world of hidden calculations. Just like with a lawyer or a doctor, we should have AI that works in our best interest. AI needs a constitution – or more precisely, we need a constitution that defines access to artificial intelligence that acts on our behalf simply as a civil right.

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