What is a subliminal technique? An ethical perspective on AI-driven influence

Ieee Ethics-2023 Conference Proceedings (2023)
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Concerns about threats to human autonomy feature prominently in the field of AI ethics. One aspect of this concern relates to the use of AI systems for problematically manipulative influence. In response to this, the European Union’s draft AI Act (AIA) includes a prohibition on AI systems deploying subliminal techniques that alter people’s behavior in ways that are reasonably likely to cause harm (Article 5(1)(a)). Critics have argued that the term ‘subliminal techniques’ is too narrow to capture the target cases of AI-based manipulation. We propose a definition of ‘subliminal techniques’ that (a) is grounded on a plausible interpretation of the legal text; (b) addresses all or most of the underlying ethical concerns motivating the prohibition; (c) is defensible from a scientific and philosophical perspective; and (d) does not over-reach in ways that impose excessive administrative and regulatory burdens. The definition is meant to provide guidance for design teams seeking to pursue responsible and ethically aligned AI innovation.



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Author Profiles

Juan Pablo Bermúdez
Universidad Externado De Colombia
Rune Nyrup
Cambridge University

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