Advancements in artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics have resulted in, what was once science fiction or obscure academic research, becoming increasingly integral to the very functioning of modern society. The massive growth in computational power and increasing abundance of data that characterized the ‘Digital Revolution’ and the subsequent ‘Information Age’ have been at the core of this, vastly improving capabilities and broadening the range of real-world applications for AI and robotics. The transformative potential of these technologies is already being leveraged by the healthcare, agriculture, automotive, manufacturing, energy, financial, communications, entertainment, retail, and many more sectors, to enhance efficiency, improve powers of prediction, optimize resource allocation, reduce costs, create new revenue opportunities and contribute to the fulfilment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
From a crime, justice and security perspective, AI and robotics also have enormous potential. These technologies can support in the identification of persons of interest, stolen vehicles or suspicious sounds and behaviour; predict trends in criminality and support law enforcement to optimize resources; interpret irregularities in financial transactions that might indicate fraud, corruption or the financing of terrorism; identify and report child sexual abuse material; and flag and respond to terrorist use of the internet. Their use is however not without its challenges, as ensuring respect for human rights, in particular the right to privacy, remains a condicio sine qua non.
At the same time, in the hands of criminals or terrorist organizations AI and robotics can enable new digital, physical and political threats. Although the integration of these technologies into crime and terrorism has yet to be substantially identified, preparedness for the emergence of new threats and crimes must be a priority as these technologies become more accessible and pervasive throughout society. For instance, so-called deepfakes, or programmatically generated video, have already demonstrated the add a whole new dimension to the ‘fake news’ problem.
In 2015, UNICRI launched its programme on AI and robotics, opening its Centre for AI and Robotics in The Hague, The Netherlands, in September 2017 with the support of the Municipality of The Hague, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands and 1QB Information Technologies, Inc. The Centre is committed to advancing understanding of AI, robotics and the broader ecosystem of related technologies, from the perspective of crime, justice and security, and to exploring their use for social good and contributing to a future free of violence and crime.
Since its establishment, the Centre has built a solid knowledge base and an extensive international network of partners and stakeholders which it utilises to carry out activities and convene expert-level meetings, training courses and workshops. Notable activities include: