Trilateral Insights – May 2024

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Trilateral Research |

Date: 22 May 2024

Get the latest insights from Trilateral in our new monthly article, featuring the latest developments from across our innovation and research teams.

Insights | Health

iToBoS Collects Patient Advocates’ Perspectives on the Ethics of Emerging Medical Tech

How should the health sector adapt to the availability of emerging medical technologies?

Last month, Trilateral’s Health Cluster moderated a workshop which brought patient advocates together to discuss this question. The group debated several topics, including accountability, governance, trust, and transparency, before settling into a discussion on the role of ethics in the development of new medical technologies. Critically, the patient advocates were skeptical of tech developers’ commitment to ethics, suspecting them of ethics-washing to boost credibility while focusing on profits, competitiveness, and legal compliance at the expense of nuanced considerations of ethical challenges.

As Health Cluster researcher Zita McCrea explains in a recent blog covering the event, the experts’ ambivalence undermined their trust in the healthcare system more broadly and reflects an urgent need to implement ethical norms governing the use of emerging technologies in the health sector. She cites research indicating that in order to develop these norms and build trust, actors in the healthcare sector must genuinely engage with the public while demonstrating accountability, transparency, and trustworthiness.The workshop was organised as part of the EU-funded iToBoS project, which seeks to develop an AI- and data-driven tool for early diagnosis of melanoma.

You can read Zita’s blog about the event here.

Insights | Ethics, Human Rights and Emerging Technologies

Trilateral Research’s Recommendations Cited in UNESCO Working Document

Last month, Senior Research Analyst Julie Vinders and Ben Howkins’ legal recommendations, developed for the TechEthos project, were cited in a UNESCO working document on the ethics of neurotechnology. The TechEthos project, which ended in December 2023, worked to bring ethical and societal values into the design and development of new and emerging technologies from the very beginning of the process.

UNESCO convened an Ad Hoc Expert Group (AHEG) to prepare a first draft of a Recommendation on the Ethics of Neurotechnology, which should be finalised by the end of August 2024. The working document includes two references to a policy brief that Trilateral Research developed in TechEthos. Most notably, in a subsection covering ongoing initiatives and recent white papers, it highlights Trilateral’s recommendation to adopt an ethics-by-design approach to anticipate and mitigate against potential risks for neurotechnologies.

To learn more read the document here.

Insights | Data Science, Research and Sociotech Innovation (DARSI)

De-mystifying AI

As Artificial Intelligence (AI) increasingly becomes a part of everyday life, it is more important than ever that everyday people understand how it works. Trilateral is working hard to de-mystify AI by developing “XAI” (explainable AI) methodologies and solutions. This involves working to make AI models as transparent and understandable as possible, for example by providing clear and understandable explanations about an AI system’s datasets, actions, and decisions, so that users engaging with the models comprehend and trust their outcomes.

Building on our expertise in developing ethical AI, we are building XAI solutions in two EU-funded projects: DR-RISE and DATA CELLAR. Both projects deal with AI models that monitor and optimise energy usage and production, with the ultimate goal of strengthening EU energy systems. The models are being developed for various stakeholders, from residential households to energy companies.

To ensure the AI models are as understandable as possible, Trilateral will engage in multiple activities. For example, we will conduct surveys with technical developers and end-users to identify exactly what end-users need in order to understand the models and how to best present the explanations. The teams will then develop recommendations and guidance to implement, test, and assess the XAI modules in the projects. These modules will provide explanations on a wide range of topics; from identified biases in datasets to explaining the performance metrics of AI models and the features that affect their forecasts. Lessons learned in the projects will be used to refine Trilateral’s XAI methodology.

Read more about DR RISE here, and DATA CELLAR here.

Insights | Climate, Energy and Environment

What is renewable energy prosumerism and can it lead to higher energy sustainability and inclusivity?

The term prosumer refers to a return to production for own use, after the split between production and consumption practices has taken place. In the energy sector, renewable energy sources (RES) prosumers can produce energy for their own use or sell it within organised markets, thanks to digital technologies and smart energy networks. As they employ renewable energy sources that are freely available for everybody (like e.g., the sun and the wind), RES prosumers are typically greeted as the bearers of more sustainable, democratic, and inclusive energy practices.

But is it really always so? And, how deeply and extensively have researchers so far investigated new forms of unsustainability and exclusion possibly generated by energy prosumerism?

Trilateral has contributed to a study on RES prosumerism research addressing these questions. The literature review focuses in particular on whether and how this research integrates inclusivity concerns and energy sufficiency, i.e. approaches targeting a reduction of consumption by avoiding upfront energy demand.

The study highlights that these concerns and approaches have not always been a major point of attention, with the exceptions of research on “energy commons” and “grassroots innovations” where inclusivity and energy sustainability typically represent main drivers. The study then also discusses policy options available to support RES prosumerism while aligning it to sufficiency and inclusivity principles.

For more insights read the full paper here.

Insights | Law Enforcement and Community Safeguarding

TRACE Podcast Explores How AI Can Assist Money Laundering Investigations

With money laundering estimated to cost society more than two trillion US dollars every year, the need for sophisticated and adaptive new tools is undeniable.

The new episode of the TRACE podcast explores how the project’s anti-money laundering technology can assist law enforcement and financial intelligence units with these complex, transnational investigations. Dr Alex Murphy from Trilateral Research’s Law Enforcement and Community Safeguarding cluster met with TRACE partners Thomas Havranek from CIN Consult and Adriane Röckelein from Proflow to talk about how AI and advanced data analytics can support investigators attempting to trace illicit money flows. The EU funded TRACE project has engaged with policing and financial investigation personnel to produce a powerful, user-friendly AI technology.

You can catch up on both episodes of the TRACE podcast here to learn more about the project.

Insights | Cybersecurity

Cyber-Threats: a Common Challenge Within European Defence and Security Policies

Trilateral Research’s Cybersecurity cluster lead Dr Nikola Tomić’s has recently published a book chapter “Defence and Security”  that discusses common challenges related to cybersecurity within Defence and Security policies. The chapter has been published in the Second Edition of Comparative Politics: Distinctive Democracies, Common Challenges, which places a unique emphasis on the contemporary political challenges faced by European countries. Here are some highlights:

  • Defence and security policies are core responsibilities of every state and are influenced by its democracy and political system, its culture, society, and way of life. However, the way that states perceive and respond to threats vary significantly and can depend on the individual histories, geographies, and assumptions of each state.
  • According to Europol, recent changes to the concept of defence and security now include a focus on the individual, also known as human security, along with the digital, cyber domain and even the metaverse and virtual reality.
  • In the case of cybersecurity, all the end goals of the EU states are similarly aligned but the individual emphasis and priorities are different. Being that territorial proximity is not a barrier when it comes to cyber threats, attacks can be carried out by attackers halfway across the world. This creates the attribution problem: in the context of cyber defence, a state needs to be sure that the attack originated from another state adversary.
  • Advancements in technology and skill will increase the complexity and devastation of cyber threats, making it imperative for Europe to invest in cybersecurity measures to provide cyber defence and security to their citizens.
  • Besides the territorial threats faced by each state, concerns about energy and cyber-attacks that cut across borders require (cyber)defence cooperation and joint efforts to address.

Further comparative analysis can be found in the chapter, including a discussion on a European common defence strategy.

Further information on the chapter is available here.

Insights | Crisis and Security

In the EU, there has been a significant increase in human, drugs and arms trafficking and smuggling, unreported and unregulated fishing, and irregular migration flows, straining border authorities and demanding fresh solutions.

To help border guards tackle these challenges, the EURMARS project is developing an advanced surveillance platform to improve maritime border security efficiency and cooperation. The platform aggregates data from deployed technologies, including fixed and mobile sensors, radars, unmanned aerial vehicles, and satellites. These advanced technologies require innovative ethical approaches, and Trilateral Research is leading the effective implementation of ethical safeguarding measures alongside an advisory board of ethics experts.

On 15-19 April 2024, Trilateral joined the project partners at the Second Living Lab of the project in Varna, Bulgaria. During this event, the partners tested the tools’ functionalities, discussed ethical issues, and preparations are underway to test the platform in Cyprus. Trilateral engaged a diverse audience, which included researchers, border security guards and authorities at national, regional and EU levels.

The event showcased the benefits of an ethics-by-design approach through each stage of the process, as it transforms ethics into an innovation driver and supports partners’ development of groundbreaking technologies to solve security problems.

Read more about the event here.

If you’d like to find out more about the ground breaking research and development we’re involved in, visit our website. If you’d like to find out more about how we could support your organisation with research and development, get in touch.

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