Artificial Intelligence and Societal Digitalization: Great Expectations and Challenges to Social Justice- Event Summary


As part of the EUact2 project, ELIAMEP organised a small-scale debate on the 18th of March, 2023, entitled "Artificial Intelligence and Societal Digitalization: Great Expectations and Challenges to Social Justice" in Patras, Greece. The event aimed to create an environment where participants could gain valuable insights from institutional and business perspectives, as well as exchange their own views on emerging topics. Three experts shared their knowledge and opinions: Stelios Kymbouropoulos, a Member of the European Parliament; Martin Ulbrich, a Senior Expert in Artificial Intelligence, Policy Development & Coordination at DG CNECT; and Vassileios Velkos, Co-Founder and CEO of Code.Hub. The discussion was moderated by the journalist Kostas Giannakidis from Protagon.

The advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and other technologies is causing a revolution across all areas of modern society. While this presents opportunities for societal improvement, it also poses significant challenges in terms of social justice and ensuring a fair transition to a digitalised world. One speaker noted that the term "artificial intelligence" should not be associated with the term "threat." With the proper legal framework set by European institutions, artificial intelligence should prioritise human well-being, ensuring that nobody is left behind. Another contributor highlighted that it would soon be possible to predict various scenarios, such as one's health status or a potential traffic accident, but in the meantime, these developments raise concerns about personal data protection. The AI revolution will transform the job market, and emphasis must be placed on lifelong learning, as it will be necessary to change professions frequently in the forthcoming years. Anticipation of an enormous proliferation of artificial intelligence around 2040-2050 was put forward, indicating the potential danger for jobs with the replacement of human labour with machines.

The young participants discussed social justice and the socioeconomic ramifications of the tremendous technological advancements. Much concern was advanced in relation to AI technology being concentrated in the hands of a few and leaving some people behind, especially the elderly. Thus, several recommendations were advanced, including regulation with a human approach (AI as a public good), training/upskilling/reskilling in a meaningful manner with relevant hard and soft skills, EU-driven regulation and a roadmap with critical funding for just transition.

To ensure maximum outreach, ELIAMEP published the call on its website and distributed it to youth organisations as well as to various universities. Thirty participants were present, and a gender balance among the participants was achieved with a 50:50 ratio, and the participants represented four EU countries (Greece, Germany, Italy and Romania). The predominant age group was 18-22 years old, making up 56.6% of attendees. The event lasted ninety  minutes, with the first twenty minutes dedicated to the experts' statements, followed by an open dialogue with the audience that lasted seventy minutes. This format allowed for a dynamic and engaging conversation that was highly informative for all participants.