3. Thinking about AI decision-making processes as an institution that brings about transformative effects
The employment of AI decision-making processes is part of a larger trend of digital technologies transforming society.170 There is a view that digital technologies are ushering in a Fourth Industrial Revolution.171 The vulnerability theory is a fruitful lens for better understanding the AI decision-making processes and what kind of values these processes enact. It sheds light on some of the institutional and societal changes the employment of AI decision-making processes introduces from the perspective of social justice. As a result, one gains insight into how the cumulative use of automated decision-making processes is likely to impact on individuals and society at large from the vantage point of social justice.
The vulnerability and the human condition thesis presents a foundation for the argument that there is a state responsibility to monitor the promises of equality of access and opportunity that are fundamental to American society’s construction of itself as the “land of opportunity.” My argument is that to attain broad general opportunity and access in today’s world, the state must be responsive to individual, social, and institutional circumstances so that equality is anchored in the realities of the human condition and not some abstract and unachievable “ideal.” In particular, it is surely true that the reality of our universal fragility plays some role in the construction of societal institutions.
Just as surely, how those institutions respond to our collective and individual vulnerability should form part of the basis upon which they are judged by and incorporated into society. To see how these insights are relevant to political and ethical assessments of what constitutes a “just” state, I seek to reconsider the components of the basic social compact on three levels: Who is cast as the universal legal subject? How are the nature and function of societal institutions understood? What are ascribed to be the responsibilities of the state or collective to individuals and institutions?