Workshop on Inequalities in the age of AI, what they are, how they work and what we can do about them - 19/11 - Brussels

Someone who would also be very interesting to engage is Mounir Mahjoubi - @clairedvn do you have a way in to see if we can invite him to join us?

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If you are still looking for people to join it might also be worth reaching out to:

Mutale Nkonde (Berkman center)
Vidushi Marda (NGO article19)
Nikita Arghwal (Oxford Law)
Fieke Jansen (Data justice PhD Cardiff Uni)
Joris van Hoboken (Prof. at Brussels Uni)
Seda Gurses (Prof at Delft Uni)

They are relatively young scholars doing very interesting work!



think you could put us in touch ( see here

timing-wise it’s great as the European Commission will come up with horizontal AI legislation (principles) in early 2020. Not an expert, but I reckon issues they will have to come to grips with could be

  • scope of the rules (what ‘AI’ systems should be covered, only top consumer/citizen-facing applications, or other/underlying infrastructure)
  • type of obligations (only transparency/documentation requirements?, what should they contain?)
  • How to differentiate, depending on scale (i.e. me building system affecting 10 people vs FB unleashing a new content ranking algorithm on a quarter of world population) and risk (system to distinguish which cat video I will be shown vs. decisions on employment, insurance, housing, predictive policing).

Could it be an idea to look at case studies at the event, with these questions in mind? For case studies itself, AlgorithmWatch produces yearly reports looking at automated decision-making in Europe (Jan 2019 report, ‘Automating Society - Taking Stock of Automated Decision-Making in the EU’). UK Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation is also carrying out a review of positive and negative effects of automated decision-making, first interim results just out I think. Interesting examples could be insurance branch, or the case of Austrian labour authority using it to decide whom of the unemployed to help in finding a new job (criterion: efficiency narrowly defined, i.e. those already have highest chance to find a new job in the first place…).

Apologies for lengthy post, but it’s my first here, so please cut me some slack


Yes I think this makes complete sense. Would you have time to pick a couple of case studies you find especially relevant and post them here?

In parallel what we do via the comms team is to ask the internet, and other participants in the workshop in for suggested case studies that we should include. And to get the conversation going around the three questions/challenges you outlined.

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It depends on the exact definition of justice, perhaps. The computerization/mechanisation of the public sector has largely been driven by the hope that logical government (deterministic decisions, given certain input deterministic output) will make society more “just” and “equal” (i.e. a computer does not have the social sensitivity to discriminate, for instance, and even when it does - for instance through statistical short-comings - we can normally measure and assess the discrimination that occurs). But we are now half a century in to computerization - has it worked?

I think “lasagna-style” technologies, which are vertically separated as a matter of technology, are more likely to lead to an outcome of increased “justice”. Because I think of justice as something which guarantees to individuals freedom to act - commercially and socially - and this freedom can only be obtained if market entry barriers are low, or if technologies lend themselves to a multitude of entities cooperating on different levels. I’d prefer, for this reason, WiMAX and Wi-Fi over LTE systems and cellular networks, and I am for this reason cautious about 5G.

With my rudimentary understanding of Italian, the 15 proposals for justice would impact technology development - would they be advanced by technology development? I think governments across Europe - certainly in Sweden - are still very much stuck in the 1960s vision of computers-as-the-saviour-of-government-through-imposing-cold-hard-logic. I.e. the “fairness” our governments strive for is either being able to use technology against the governments’ own citizens (to find “cheaters”) or to have a “government machine” that is not able to distinguish the unique life-stories of either subjects (citizens) or staff (civil servants).


Could you describe more what you mean by lasagna technologies? I have not seen that term before.

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Apparently I have imported a Swedishicism:

The idea is, as Alberto alludes to, that you have technologies which are layered in the sense that each layer can stand on its own two feet, takes care of its own security problems, etc. For networked technologies this is a main departure from old-style telecommunications networks which were assumed to be deployed and operated by the same entity.


A much belated response in the thread continuation by Alberto.

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Hey, almost done with first skeleton draft of what we discussed.

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I’m working on these forms of conceptualisations of technologies with a view to illustrating /where/ and /who/ does /what/ and /how/. The particular attachment concerns consumer worries with connected fridges - it’s a sketch/draft.

I was put in a pickle with the physical and datalink layers, because there’s actually a bit of information transmitted already at/for the physical layer. But ok.


the idea is to be able to put in where different features are/could be standardized, or perhaps even map to vendors/value chains. there’s a universe out there waiting to be OSI:fied.


Ok - do I understand correctly?

For the purpose of this discussion/session we need to be quite specific so as to have a set of “case studies”. We pick a set of specific well documented stories/ incident where certain injustices manifested and map out the connections between the where/what/when/how of technologies involved…and the who/where/when/how of decision making mechanisms or processes involved.

The visuals you sent are a proposed way to approach/structure the discussion.


For the purpose of this discussion/session we need to be quite specific so as to have a set of “case studies”. We pick a set of specific well documented stories/ incident where certain injustices manifested and map out the connections between the where/what/when/how of technologies involved…and the who/where/when/how of decision making mechanisms or processes involved.

Ah, sorry. I posted the picture because it looks nice (to lighten up the mood). On the stories we need to document, I believe it’s easier to group stories by forum (where an event takes place), since it is the nature of the forum that determines what the future courses of actions are.

That said, OSI layer conceptualisations can be used to illustrate how different technologies relate to each other. Maybe a consideration for a later report? At the workshop stage focus could be on strategic issues more than graphics.


Hi @alberto, this is an interesting issue.

P2P traffic had peaked to be 69% of total internet traffic in Germany in 2007 ( & )… in 2019 however, it fell to the neighbourhood of 5% ( ). Similarly to make another example, despite promising radical decentralisation and the substitution of trust by algorithm-driven verification of claims, blockchains have all started meddling with mechanisms of centralised control, roughly since the 2016 DAO attack and consequent Ethereum fork, and today one sees permissioned solutions ( ), editable (!!) chains ( and ), and various experiments in quorum systems ( and )… all to adapt to external requirements and to fit within existing financial and regulatory models (and they were already radically less pirate and anarchic than the previous at least 2 waves of decentralised tech on internet!!), rather than because of inherent technical reflections, or visions of future societies… a clash that homoeopathically dilutes the long-term vision on the reasons of short term success?
It all seems to me to relate to how policies get informed by unknowns and believes, often transversal to the topic that is being deliberated about (e.g. P2P and the mistaken belief that sharing subtracts value to the creative industry -> )

…this could be a good paper to read ahead of any effort to produce evidences for NGI ->

Are you calling Julia Reda on this?


Well, hello @markomanka! :slight_smile:

Delighted to get your input – if we go ahead with this, I’ll make sure you get a proper invitation. Your exact same point was made to me by @teirdes: Europe used to have a world leadership on P2P tech (Kazaa, Pirate Bay, early Skype…), but then it regulated its own tech bleeding edge out of existence. This issue deserves its own thread, but it does advocate taking a hard look at industrial tech policy in the EU… what do you think?

I am not sure what Julia is up to these days. I heard she did not run for a second mandate, which I interpret as being fed up with the whole dance. Perhaps you have other information?


I agree we need to get deep into the industrial tech policies, and overall competitive strategy design process (an awful lot of ill informed “me too” rages in EU since a decade or two) inevitably including the issue of lobbying… and I agree this investigation would be a dignified activity on its own… In reason of Paul KT & Haddad C 2019 (the last link in my previous post) however, I am not sure we can disentangle the two analyses too easily, since also your original enquiry was meant to inform future policy making… up for conversation about how to arrange the coordination of the efforts.

Concerning Julia, no… I have the same news as you, I guess… but my understanding is that she is fed up with the political side and EU parliament… not with the entire topic… and once anyone is as deep in it as she is, I cannot bring myself to believe she can simply turn away… it’s in her :slight_smile:
Anyway a message would not hurt, if we were to go through with this… :angel:


@markomanka indeed!

Please keep sharing these as you develop them @teirdes - having visual resources (i at least finds) is very helpful for explaining how the Internet works, who is in involved, and what concerns/interests are!