A major outcome of our transdisciplinary exploration, and a key recommendation of the UTS submission to the AHRC consultation on human rights and technology, is for Australia to establish a new advisory and regulatory body: a Technology Assessment Office.
Once we become aware of certain impacts of technology on society, it is often too late to change the course of those impacts through regulation alone. Ask anyone if they would give up their mobile phone for a bit more peace of mind and freedom from emails after they leave the office? But those effects are not inevitable and natural outcomes of having mobile phones. And mobile phones also deliver a great deal of benefit to individuals, connecting friends and family around the world, making information freely available, and delivering easier and more universal access to certain services.
In part due to the challenges of predicting the impacts of technology on society, and the limits of purely regulatory responses, we propose integrating ethics into the design process in order to protect human rights and encourage technology that supports human flourishing.
The recommendations outlined in our submission to the AHRC consultation emphasise the importance of establishing and supporting processes for the ongoing assessment and evaluation of the social, political and ethical implications of new technologies, especially from a human rights perspective.
A Technology Assessment Office (TAO) would address a gaping absence in the Australian legal framework for new technologies, and provide a platform for coordination, education, advocacy, and proactive public engagement.
The TAO that we propose would have a remit for technology assessment and responsible innovation that goes beyond the regulation of AI, to extend to new transformative technologies across the board.
It is important, therefore, that the TAO should operate on a transdisciplinary model, drawing on expertise from government, industry, academia and the community sector, and should coordinate with existing regulatory authorities, such as the Office of the Australian Information Commission (OAIC) and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
Technology assessment is a complex and involved task which requires the resources of a government organisation. This task needs to adopt a multidisciplinary approach in order to capture all perspectives of both users and society.
You can read more about the TAO in our submission to the AHRC consultation.