The AI Bill of Rights – all you need to know

In what could be termed yet another initiative to promote the use of responsible and trustworthy artificial intelligence (AI), the Biden administration has unveiled a new “AI Bill of Rights” which identifies some key principles to protect the rights of the American public in the age of AI.

The document, while acknowledging the great transformative power of artificial intelligence, provides a blueprint to avert potential harms caused by unaccountable algorithms and to protect civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy.

On Oct. 4 the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released a set of voluntary guidelines, the Blueprint for an “AI Bill of Rights”, for governments at all levels to companies of all sizes. It identifies five principles to guide the design, use, and deployment of automated systems to protect all people against potential harms.

“Where existing law or policy—such as sector-specific privacy laws and oversight requirements—do not already provide guidance, the Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights should be used to inform policy decisions,” reads an explainer by the OSTP.

The principles

The five aspirational and interrelated, yet non-binding, principles are: 1). Safe and Effective Systems 2). Algorithmic Discrimination Protections 3). Data Privacy 4). Notice and Explanation and 5). Human Alternatives, Consideration, and Fallback.  

According to the first principle, individuals should be protected from unsafe or ineffective systems. The second principle is about discrimination individuals could face by algorithms and stresses that systems should be used and designed in an equitable way. As per the third principle, individuals should be protected from abusive data practices via built-in protections and they should have agency over how data about them is used. The fourth principle stresses that individuals should know that an automated system is being used and understand how and why it contributes to outcomes that impact them. The fifth principle says that individuals should be able to opt out, where appropriate, and have access to a person who can quickly consider and remedy problems they encounter.

The concerns

While the White House’s new initiative drew widespread media attention it wasn’t without criticism.

For example, the WIRED termed the “AI Bill of Rights” as toothless against big tech. The Wall Street Journal quoting some tech executives wrote that “the nonbinding guidelines could lead to stifling regulation concerning artificial intelligence.”

“The Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights notably does not set out specific enforcement actions, but instead is intended as a White House call to action for the U.S.,” reads a news report by the Associated Press.

As per the document, the blueprint was developed through extensive consultation—with stakeholders from impacted communities to experts and practitioners as well as policymakers—on the issue of algorithmic and data-driven harms and potential remedies.


Analyzing Storytelling About the Ukrainian Conflict

Note: This article series in no way minimizes the Ukrainian suffering. It is simply an attempt to analyze the storytelling applied by various entities in the Ukrainian Conflict.

Humans have been telling war stories for millenniums. Many of those stories were about glorifying the victories and the victorious. Some detailed the brutality of warfare. Others described the inherent passions of war. Since the advent of the Internet, storytelling has become more democratized, more personal, and more instant. With multiple types of unstructured data being uploaded by hundreds of thousands of eyewitnesses of wars to millions of commentators, a new type of storytelling has emerged. The frames and themes of war provide elements whose complex interactions generate narratives that show and document the atrocities of war, human suffering, punitive actions, moral standing, changes in social and global order, and other dynamics of war.

In the theatre of today’s great power competition, the Ukraine conflict offers a first look into the storytelling related to new geopolitical dynamics: a hot conflict where major powers found themselves on the opposing ends. When combined with the deployment of artificial intelligence based narrative analysis, the Ukraine war offers significant insights into the evolving global narratives and how war stories will shape the geopolitics in the future.

This is a series of two parts of articles. The first focuses on major story themes coming out from countries. The second part of the article analyzes the narratives and positions taken by companies.

Theme 1: It’s about the history (Russia’s emotionless story that backfired)

The Russian storyline was based upon showing NATO and the Ukrainian government as the aggressors who were threatening the national security and interests of Russia and attacking ethnic Russians in Ukraine, and therefore Russia had no option but to attack Ukraine. A story that depicts lack of options is often a tragedy that invites sympathy, but its appeal must be emotional. The Russian story came across as too rational and lacked any emotional appeal for the global audiences. President Putin’s attempt to position NATO as a goliath failed terribly. If NATO weren’t turned into a goliath, Russia could not be viewed as David.

Despite the claims that Russian bots were superactive and that Twitter removed over 75,000 accounts during the war, the overall Russian story and communications were highly ineffective.

The text coming out of Kremlin, the images, and the visual storyline, were not designed to determinedly project Russia either as a decisive aggressor (goliath) or as a victim (David). It was somewhat a mixture of the two. Here was President Putin explaining why Russia went to war, but his explanation seemed like a lesson from a boring history class. Dwelling over a century old Ukrainian and Russian history, he easily lost global audiences. His speech was not designed to inspire his nation or to even make a strong case for the invasion, but instead seemed like an attempt to provide a justification for the invasion that was based upon some type of a historical account. In a world where emotions and drama dominate the narrative setting discourse, Putin was walking into a landmine. His grievance centric appeal did not have the emotional depth to resonate with the global audiences. Maria Zakharova, Russia’s spokesperson, became emotional about the fact that her side of the story was not being acknowledged and the plight of ethnic Russian in Ukraine was being ignored. But by that time, it was already too late for global audiences to develop any sympathy for the Russia’s position.

On the visual storytelling side, President Putin’s posture of leaning back, even slouching, while speaking with hands holding the edge of the table depicted someone drowning who needed to hold on to something. It brought to mind the iconic scene from the movie Titanic, where Leonardo DiCaprio was holding on to the edge of the wooden panel, right before he let it go.  But by the time that scene takes place in Titanic, audience has already developed deep sympathy for DiCaprio’s role. With the established image of a strongman, President Putin carried no such sympathy.

Further, on the visual storytelling side, the shots for the speech switched between showing President Putin slouching back and looking tiny behind the desk, overpowered by a TV screen, computer screen, keyboard, mouse, and four phones. The noise in the imagery was intense. If the idea was to show President Putin in action, that was not the right time or avenue. If the goal was to show him deliver a strong message, the visual noise was intense.

At the ceremony of signing DPR and LPR, the visual storytelling seemed cold and impersonal. The size of the room presented the image of a lonely emperor conducting business in a giant palace. There were no cheers or human emotions. From a Russian perspective, two states were being born, but the presentation seemed so solemn as if a death sentence was being awarded. Contrast that with when American presidents sign bills, applauding supporters of the bills are shown standing behind the president. Similarly, the audience at bills signing ceremonies is composed of citizens who cheer and applaud.

Russia’s failure to make the alleged NATO push and the Ukrainian neo-Nazism an emotional sell to the world was obvious. Unlike the US president who talked to the global audiences, President Putin limited his messaging to his domestic audience. There was no emotional depth, no drama, and no framing in President Putin’s claim. His speeches looked like long and boring history lessons rather than the great oratory to inspire nations or to make a strong case.

If this was all done intentionally, it is hard to imagine what it accomplished. If it happened because of incompetence, it would probably be seen as a bigger failure for Russia than the poorly executed war itself.

Theme 2: “We Understand” (Minimizing the Ordeal, China)

The Russian story was communicated in China very differently than in many other parts of the world. The word “invasion” was not used in China, and the images shown on national TV were of Russian soldiers distributing food and water to the Ukrainians. On social media any criticism of Russian aggression was removed. The official line of the Chinese government continued to be: We don’t want war in Europe but also don’t want any sanctions on Russia.

This narrative is designed to position NATO as the aggressor and Russia as the optionless victim. The official line of the Chinese government attempted to position NATO as hegemonic and intrusive, and that NATO was the threatening and destabilizing force against Russia. This was architected to create a preemptive story about Pacific QUAD (not a formal alliance, officially the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, is a group of four countries: the United States, Australia, India, and Japan) as a hegemonic and destabilizing force. This narrative was being framed by not only what was being said or communicated but also by what was not being said and shown. Thus, not communicating a story is itself a story.

The dominant narrative in China was shaped by silence and gentle nudge to request both parties to reach peace.

Theme 3: We have come to honor that allegiance (Indian business-ism)

In the second Lord of the Rings movie, Haldir says: I bring word from Lord Elrond of Rivendell. An Alliance once existed between Elves and Men. Long ago we fought and died together. We come to honor that allegiance. The messaging coming out of India was similar. As the war progressed, India increased its trade with Russia. It was more than business as usual. The White House’s reaction to India’s position was that they found it to be “unsatisfactory” but “unsurprising”. While it was hard for India to justify its position with its Western partners, the Indian story needed to be of pragmatism and opportunism with an undertone of amorality of political affiliations. Terminating its longstanding relationship with Russia was not an option. Neither was becoming a hard critic of President Putin. If you can’t take the Western side, might as well benefit from the situation – turned out to be India’s story. India was willing to trade its “Gandhi” image for the image of India is open for business. The Indian story was of pragmatism and astuteness. It was saying: you don’t have to trust us that we will always stand for the oppressed, but you can trust us that we will make good business decisions.

Theme 4: Please let us help you (Caught in the middle, Israel and Turkey)

Israel was caught in the middle. On one hand Israel needed to stand with America and its Western allies and on the other hand Israel had to maintain good relations with Russia. The Israeli story could not have been about taking sides. Unlike India which took the Russian side, the Israeli story developed as of a mediator and of a refugee host. In the mediator role, Israel offered to mediate peace between the two warring parties. On the refugee host side, the country’s situation gets even more complicated as about two-third of the Ukrainian refugees arriving in Israel are non-Jewish. Israel was able to keep a balanced position. Turkey’s position, like Israel’s, also turned out to be of a mediator.

Theme 5: We are against the war but stand with Russia (the anti-imperialist story, Iran)

Iran took a position of blaming the NATO for pushing Russia into a corner but also claimed that it is against the war and human suffering. This position allowed Iran to develop a narrative of standing for the oppressed without disparaging its close ally Russia. This was in line with the Islamic Republic’s overall narrative of anti-imperialism.

Theme 6: We are all victims of hegemonic powers (Pakistan’s story)

Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan used a unique angle and turned his story into a narrative of victimhood of weak nations suffering the consequences of a war between the two giants (America and Russia). It brought to mind the images from the first Hobbit movie where two mountain giants are fighting as Bilbo’s party tries to save itself from the falling rocks. Pakistan’s story of strategic neutrality with victimhood was designed to deflect the decision to choose. That positioning of a victim was also meant for the domestic audiences who are greatly impacted by the rising inflation in Pakistan. PM Khan is fighting for his prime minister position against a no-confidence motion in the parliament, and the broader global conflict allows him to blame the rising inflation on geopolitical realities.

Theme 7: I am on nobody’s side, because nobody is on my side, little orc (Hungary)

Just as Treebeard in the movie The Two Towers claims that he is on nobody’s side, Viktor Orban, Prime Minister of Hungary said “Russia looks at Russian interests, while Ukraine looks at Ukrainian interests. Neither the United States, nor Brussels would think with Hungarians’ mind and feel with Hungarians’ hearts. We must stand up for our own interests.” The story of Hungary is about focusing on its own interests. This is different from India’s story as it is based upon a clear and overt claim of self-interest whereas the Indian story is based upon preserving old friendships.

Theme 8: The David vs. Goliath (Perfect execution by Ukraine)

On the other side, Ukraine offered the story of Russian aggression and backed it up with strong emotional data. President Zelenskyy’s used the right messaging and imagery – both in text and the visual elements. President Zelenskyy ditched suit and put on a military t-shirt and allowed his beard to grow. The visual imagery of a leader fighting aggression was delivered perfectly. The Russian aggression was captured in video and images, in news and social media, and the story was backed by proofs and strong emotional content. It quickly became the most touching story in the world. Even those countries that did not vote against Russia at the United Nations condemned the Russian war against the Ukrainian civilians. For example Iran, a strong ally of Russia, offered help to Ukrainians. The power of the Ukrainian storytelling was amazing. It touched hearts and it appealed to reason. The Russian story was crushed by the power of the Ukrainian story. The Ukrainian story gained enough momentum for the US and EU to enact sanctions and terminate business with Russia.

But David vs. Goliath story requires David to have a stone and a sling, and for him to use that to hit Goliath with some force. For Ukraine to pull that story, a significant victory over Russia, even if turns out to be of resistance and defiance, will be critical. So far, the storyline of the Kiev defense is working out in Ukraine’s favor. Russia understands the risk and has decided to refocus the campaign in the eastern Ukraine and has announced that the Phase One of the war is over. The end of Phase One was not turned into a victory lap by Kiev. This could be because the timing of the story is slipping. The story has climaxed, and short attention spans of modern audiences quickly lead to cognitive saturation. The long-drawn fight and the words like “stalemate” and “stymied”, if not linked to a victory lap, may work against the Ukrainian story. For global audiences these words signal “move on to something else”. Suddenly, Will Smith punching Chris Rock in Oscars will become a far bigger story.

Important Considerations

The question here is that whether Ukrainian story can sustain its power? Emotional stories can lose momentum quickly as human emotions are designed to be reactive, but they can’t maintain a state of hyperactivity for too long – especially when things are not too personal. Slowly, people will move on to other stories. Alternative explanations will emerge. Counternarratives will rise. NATO will be blamed for fueling and extending the war. The stories about the economic toll of the war for Americans will start taking center stage. Would Americans be okay with paying nearly twice at the gas pumps in the first summer after two years of struggling with Covid related restrictions? President Biden’s approval rating has already fallen to the lowest level in his presidency.

Russia will undoubtedly try to take advantage of these conditions and rearticulate its story to a narrative that shows that the world’s largest democracy (India), the world’s largest economy (China), and a country that understands human rights better than anyone (South Africa) stand on its side. But that depends upon Russia recognizing the importance of storytelling. Since President Putin likes to talk about history, if the recent history is any indicator, Russian storytelling was a dismal failure.

American Institute of Artificial Intelligence (AIAI) is an institute focused on using Machine Learning to analyze stories and narratives of companies, countries, and government agencies.


How to put “S” in ESG? A guide for investment managers: AI does it for you

By Prof. Al Naqvi

Reindustrialization and ESG do not have to be incompatible. AI can enable you to accomplish both. This article only focuses on the “Social” or S part of the ESG.

The ESG movement has a strong emphasis on environment. ESG stands for Environment, Social, and (corporate) Governance.

This whole area is so new that when CNBC interviewed Jonathan Bailey, Head of ESG Investment at Neuberger Berman, the CNBC analyst commented that Bailey’s position would not have existed a year ago. (interview aired on 08/24/2020)

Clearly, getting the E part is easier. It has 40 years of advocacy by people like Al Gore, well-defined global standards, and tradable products such as Carbon Credits.

But what about S in ESG? In an era marked with Black Lives Matter protests, rising nationalism across the world, increasing global tensions, and higher awareness about these issues – how to bring S into ESG without feeling the guilt of insincerity?

“Guilt of insincerity” … what’s that?
Claiming to start an ESG focused fund is easy. Defining the standards in accordance with which the fund will operate is much harder. What makes it extremely difficult is that you must deliver reasonable returns to the shareholders.

To posit that great returns will only come from companies with the highest ESG performance is still unproven. To claim that firms with higher standards deliver great value, is also empirically unverified.

But what is provable is that if a strong movement exists in the investment world – a movement that can help transition investment from assets that exhibit low ethical standards to those that show strong ESG traits, the needle will move. The obvious question is: what are the standards for “S” – social concerns?

Without having such standards – fund managers are trapped in a debate that precedes Al Gore’s save the planet campaign by a few thousand years. The question of what is good for society is as old as the human civilization.

If ESG fund managers pay lip service to social concerns, they are being insincere to the cause. If they don’t do anything – then it is not much of ESG. If they create goals that are too tight, it may reduce the breathing room for delivering returns. This is the dilemma and a source of guilt.

Without more elaborate frameworks, asset managers tend to lean upon some obvious areas such as diversity, human rights, consumer protection, and animal welfare.
The United Nations provides further guidance on the sustainability development agenda by establishing 17 goals. But these are cookie cutter approaches. A fund needs a competitive advantage.

While these standards are clear, the following three problems become a source of concern for investment managers:

The problem of variable inclusion: What constitutes as social concern? Which social value driver variables to include and which to exclude? For example, would running clinical tests on animals be considered as a concern about animal welfare? Would running clinical trials in Africa – where populations may not really understand what they are getting into – constitute as human rights violations? Would capturing personal information of users be considered a human rights issue?

The problem of measurement: Once variables are defined – questions arise about how to measure the social impact? Would the measurement be against an absolute standard or would there be some flexibility?

The problem of definition: This is close to the first problem – but it captures a different perspective. While the first addresses which variables to include, this problem addresses that once a decision is made to include a variable, how do you define that variable. For example, if you have selected weapons manufacturing as a (negative) social value driver variable, does all weapons manufacturing violate human rights or only selling weapons to countries that violate human rights constitutes as bad? It is questions as that which help us define the variables.

The above three considerations impact the real problem faced by fund managers: delivering returns above the expected cost of capital.
This means that answers to the above should somehow be linked with returns – and that means answering various strategy and goals of fund questions. For example: Is the fund operating with the goal of behavior modification for a target firm – or is the goal to reprimand offenders? Does the firm establish internal goals or abide by external goals? And most fundamentally: how does the ESG-enabled strategy translate into a competitive advantage?

The answer to the above question lies with artificial intelligence.


How can AI help?
Artificial Intelligence provides the most comprehensive way to implement “S” and “G”. In this article I will only address S – as G will be discussed in a separate article.
I believe that every firm needs its own internal standards and the ability to analyze target investments. This gives maximum strategic flexibility and can help firms establish standards that can be unique.

A system for achieving that is based upon 5 Social Value Discovery drivers – which are followed by a CRISP-DM type model development and deployment process (Figure 1).The first four steps are what helps define the overall social value creation model.
The fifth step – Return Linking – establishes a hot link between social value drivers and returns to enable dynamic fund management. The word dynamic refers to having the ability to evaluate the link between social value creation and returns. This strategy can work for both passive and active investment styles.

The outcome of the first five steps establishes the data requirements and scopes out the preprocessing requirements – keeping in mind that your data and algorithms can themselves be a source of bias.

You must avoid these mistakes

To secure solid returns and keep your “social” a strong contributor of value – you must avoid the following five mistakes:

Do not go with a cookie cutter approach. Your investors will be able to smell the insincerity associated with the cookie cutter approach. Make social value creation a competitive advantage for your firm. This means you must have a framework.

Do not leave the 5th Step as a loose end. Make sure to link returns with your social value drivers – and do so at a lower level in fundamentals-based value creation. Do not use indefensible models of social value creation. Make sure to have clear and defensible framework which clearly defines what value creation means.

Do not proceed without properly understanding the data and algorithms: Your data and algorithms can be a source of bias. You must have a clear strategy on how to deal with bias.

Make sure to test your strategies: Make sure that you have a way for testing your strategies. And this opens a new can of worms. Your model must work in active and live settings – and making it work is not easy. Good investment strategies often come to die on the altars of overfitting.

Do not ignore that your target investments can use AI for good and bad: One of your critical evaluations need to be whether your target investments (firms) are using AI to create or destroy social value. These days AI is the top agenda item for most firms – and they can use it for good or for bad – and your knowledge of that can make all the difference.

Next Steps

Based upon the above, here are the five steps to put a solid S in your ESG:
1. Understand your strategy; identify your social value drivers, measurements, and definitions.
2. Establish a hot link with returns. Study what that means. Test, test, and test. Do not use a cookie cutter approach.
3. Data is expensive. Do not just get all the data. Get data that is meaningful for your framework. Establish best practices for data management and preprocessing.
4. Establish models – and you would need multiple – to work together to identify and manage value creation for you. This means to get a synchronized value-creation framework implemented.
5. Things are never constant. Know and proactively manage when change happens. It can happen when the underlying distributions have changed – or the set of features you used to define the social context have been altered.
You mean well. But this is investment business and having goal excellence is one thing – making it work another. Social value creation is important and while we cannot change everything – as Dylan Thomas said, we must “rage against the dying of the light”