Confucius, Cyberpunk and Mr. Science: Comparing AI ethics between China and the EU

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The exponential development and application of artificial intelligence triggered an unprecedented global concern for potential social and ethical issues. Stakeholders from different industries, international foundations, governmental organisations and standards institutions quickly improvised and created various codes of ethics attempting to regulate AI. A major concern is the large homogeneity and presumed consensualism around these principles. While it is true that some ethical doctrines, such as the famous Kantian deontology, aspire to universalism, they are however not universal in practice. In fact, ethical pluralism is more about differences in which relevant questions to ask rather than different answers to a common question. When people abide by different moral doctrines, they tend to disagree on the very approach to an issue. Even when people from different cultures happen to agree on a set of common principles, it does not necessarily mean that they share the same understanding of these concepts and what they entail. In order to better understand the philosophical roots and cultural context underlying ethical principles in AI, we propose to analyse and compare the ethical principles endorsed by the Chinese National New Generation Artificial Intelligence Governance Professional Committee (CNNGAIGPC) and those elaborated by the European High-level Expert Group on AI (HLEGAI). China and the EU have very different political systems and diverge in their cultural heritages. In our analysis, we wish to highlight that principles that seem similar a priori may actually have different meanings, derived from different approaches and reflect distinct goals.

Ryan Watkins