Shifting AI ethics from high-level principles to socio-political context


Ethical principles alone are poorly equipped to engage with and address the impacts of artificial intelligence (AI). Whether it be material impacts or the generation of socio-political issues, high-level ethical principles don’t always offer the tools needed to address them. In a recent Open Research Europe paper, SIENNA’s Anaïs Resseguier and Rowena Rodrigues advocate for AI ethics that pays attention to context.  

“Although ethical principles bring value to the field of AI ethics, this principled approach is not sufficient by itself. AI can further reinforce social inequalities and injustices and may have serious environmental impacts due to major energy consumption. To mitigate the risks of AI, high-level ethical principles need to be complemented by attention to socio-political context, including the material conditions of production of AI systems and their practical impacts on individuals and society,” says Anaïs Resseguier, one of the authors of a recent Open Research Europe article.

Relying on ethical principles to govern a technology with wide-ranging practical implications might not be the best approach. Shifting the focus of AI ethics from high-level principles to the socio-political context offers better tools to deal with the real-life implications of AI. Anaïs Resseguier and Rowena Rodrigues underline the value of feminist approaches, such as ethics of care, for AI ethics. And the key role the social sciences and humanities have to play to ensure the socio-political issues and material impacts created by AI are properly addressed.

Read the article

Resseguier A and Rodrigues R. Ethics as attention to context: recommendations for the ethics of artificial intelligence [version 1; peer review: awaiting peer review]. Open Research Europe 2021, 1:27 (

By Anna Holm

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