Saudi Arabia seeks to lead the world in artificial intelligence, but first must address serious human rights concerns. The Saudi government views AI as crucial to diversifying economy from oil, and is luring foreign tech companies to new research hubs. However, Saudi Arabia’s authoritarian laws and oppression of dissent pose risks of AI being deployed unethically.
There are real dangers of AI amplifying Saudi control and violence against citizens. Saudi officials have faced global criticism for murdering journalist Jamal Khashoggi and jailing women’s rights activists. Powerful new AI could help the regime more closely track dissidents, curb free speech, target minorities and deploy mass surveillance.
Some companies see risks in selling AI that enables rights abuses. Google rejected a Saudi cloud computing project, and Amazon may avoid deals enabling human rights violations. Yet many western tech companies prize Saudi access and funds over ethics. Saudi AI investments seem aimed more at glossing over rights reputation than enabling open science. Giving the regime advanced AI may strengthen authoritarian rule rather than civil liberties. AI could supercharge unchecked officials and policies violating privacy, oppressing dissent and persecuting without accountability.
While Saudi Arabia leads AI dreams, nightmares may await its citizens. Western governments and companies should avoid enabling dangerous partnerships providing tools to violate rights and crush dissent. For Saudi AI leadership to be responsible, reforms must come first to respect civil liberties and protect citizens. AI cannot thrive where people lack basic rights and freedoms. Rights safeguards should shape AI progress, not follow it.
For Saudi citizens and world stability alike, constraint of absolute power matters profoundly. Unfettered, AI may amplify oppression and conflict. Rights and ethics must be vital guides to balance progress and human dignity. With reform and openness, AI can benefit a society. But in darkness, it risks becoming a tool of control and fear. The perils of advanced technology married to authoritarianism are real, and Saudi Arabia stands on their threshold. Leadership in AI requires first leadership in human rights. The world should demand no less.
While technology leaps ahead, timeless moral concerns persist. AI cannot remedy the ailments of a system deaf to its people and divorced from accountability. Saudi Arabia should see that its global standing hinges on empowering citizens, not further tightening the reins. The promise of change through AI must not outpace the realities of injustice. For 21st century progress to be meaningful, human rights must be its first engineers and champions. The fate of Saudi citizens hangs in the balance as the future takes shape. On common ground of dignity and conscience, we all must stand with them.