The contested role of AI ethics boards in smart societies: a step towards improvement based on board composition by sortition

Paper by Ludovico Giacomo Conti & Peter Seele: “The recent proliferation of AI scandals led private and public organisations to implement new ethics guidelines, introduce AI ethics boards, and list ethical principles. Nevertheless, some of these efforts remained a façade not backed by any substantive action. Such behaviour made the public question the legitimacy of the AI industry and prompted scholars to accuse the sector of ethicswashing, machinewashing, and ethics trivialisation—criticisms that spilt over to institutional AI ethics boards. To counter this widespread issue, contributions in the literature have proposed fixes that do not consider its systemic character and are based on a top-down, expert-centric governance. To fill this gap, we propose to make use of qualified informed lotteries: a two-step model that transposes the documented benefits of the ancient practice of sortition into the selection of AI ethics boards’ members and combines them with the advantages of a stakeholder-driven, participative, and deliberative bottom-up process typical of Citizens’ Assemblies. The model permits increasing the public’s legitimacy and participation in the decision-making process and its deliverables, curbing the industry’s over-influence and lobbying, and diminishing the instrumentalisation of ethics boards. We suggest that this sortition-based approach may provide a sound base for both public and private organisations in smart societies for constructing a decentralised, bottom-up, participative digital democracy…(More)”.