The Promise and Peril of Human Rights Technology (Introduction)
New Technologies for Human Rights Law and Practice (Molly K. Land and Jay D. Aronson eds. CUP 2018)
20 Pages Posted: 16 Jan 2019
Date Written: 2018
The first two decades of the twenty-first century have seen a simultaneous proliferation of new technological threats to and opportunities for international human rights. New advances – not only the Internet, social media, and artificial intelligence but also novel techniques for controlling reproduction or dealing with climate change – make clear that scientific and technological innovations bring both risks and benefits to human rights. Efforts to protect and promote human rights have to take seriously the ways in which these technologies, and the forms of knowledge creation, production, and dissemination they enable, can create harms and be exploited to violate rights. At the same time, human rights practitioners must continue to seek creative ways to make use of new technologies to improve the human condition.
This dichotomy is the central tension that animates both this volume and the emerging field of human rights technology. The overriding purpose of the volume, and of the University of Connecticut workshop that launched it, is to encourage human rights institutions, experts, and practitioners to take seriously the risks and opportunities of technology for the promotion and protection of human rights. The volume uses diverse case studies to examine how the dynamic of intertwined threat and opportunity plays out in a range of contexts. Case studies focus on assisted reproductive technologies, autonomous lethal weapons, climate change technology, the Internet and social media, and water meters. Considering the relationship between technology and human rights across these diverse areas reveals areas of both continuity and discontinuity in terms of how technology affects the enjoyment of human rights.
We begin by laying out the principles that animate the project. These principles have been derived chiefly from international human rights law and practice, and also draw on the scholarly study of science, technology, and the law. Based on these principles, we define a “human rights” approach to the study of technology. Finally, we identify and analyze the cross-cutting themes that unite the book – power and justice, accountability, and the role of private authority – to chart a road map for further study of the relationship between technology and human rights.
Keywords: human rights, international law, technology, new technologies, science, internet, social media, artifical intelligence, biotech, reproductive technologies, autonomous weapons, right to science
JEL Classification: K33
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