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Interdisciplinary PhD Scholarship on the Theme of AI & Society

JobRef: 23178
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Interdisciplinary PhD Scholarship on the Theme of AI & Society

POSTED:May 3, 2024
LOCATION:DCU School of Law and Government jointly with the School of Communications
Duration:4 years
Reports to:Dr Edoardo Celeste and Dr Trish Morgan
Salary:PhD scholarship including fees and a yearly tax-free stipend of €22,000
Closing Date:May 31, 2024

Towards a holistic approach of AI for societal good: reconciling the EU’s digital sovereignty and green transition ambitions

In December 2022, the EU Commission, Parliament and Council adopted the European Declaration on Digital Rights and Principles for the Digital Decade, articulating the pillars of fundamental digital rights in the EU. Article 23 of the Declaration enshrines for the first time the principle of sustainable development of digital technology, establishing that digital products and services should be produced, used and disposed of in a sustainable way, avoiding harms to the environment and favouring the circular economy. This recent attention to the digital transition and climate change mitigation is welcome. However, EU digital and green ambitions, even if well-articulated separately, seem to lack a holistic and integrated approach, particularly in the context of the use of AI technologies for societal good.

In both the EU digital and green policy strategies, the potentials of AI for societal good are touted. Building AI systems made in the EU help protect member states’ digital sovereignty. Supporting EU geopolitical autonomy in the digital field fosters the role of the EU as a centre for digital innovation and ensures the application of EU fundamental rights as well as the protection of digital critical infrastructures. AI is also seen as part of the green transition away from more ‘dirty’, energy intensive manufacturing sectors, while also holding potentials in climate forecasting and extreme weather modelling. However, the use of AI technologies does not have a zero impact on the environment.

With these challenges and potentials around digital sovereignty, green transition ambitions, and the emerging role of AI, the sought PhD project should answer some key questions, such as: how can the development of AI systems relying on energy-intensive data centres in the EU be reconciled with the EU green ambitions? How can the EU become digitally sovereign if most of the raw materials needed to support the expansion of AI-based digital products  are from developing countries and regions with different climate mitigation standards and goals?

We seek PhD projects investigating the role of AI for societal good through  the tensions between the EU’s digital sovereignty and its green transition aspirations, analysing impacts of these two ambitions on AI as a tool for societal good. There is currently little literature exploring ways of better integrating the digital and green transitions from a legal and policy perspective, in particular in the context of regulation of AI technologies. We seek PhD proposals aiming to address this gap, studying how to reconcile the EU digital and green ambitions combining a legal-policy approach with an environmental geography perspective. The EU is currently transitioning from drafting ethical guidelines on the use of AI systems to regulation. The current discussions will shape the role of AI in achieving crucial EU policy strategies related to digitalisation and green transition. A holistic approach including legal and environmental considerations is needed in order to define the principles that will guide the use of AI in achieving the EU digital sovereignty ambitions and green aspirations.

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