Impact Roundup and Year in Review December 2020 : We Made It Happen

What a month and a year it has been! With a UK film release and three high-level policy events, the final weeks of 2020 have been extraordinarily busy for Think-Film. We’re proud to say that despite everything we conclude this year the way we began it – making things happen and achieving real change.

iHUMAN

‘This is the most important conversation of our time’ – Max Tegmark

Development and use of artificial intelligence has increased drastically in 2020 as a result of Covid. While this has valuably helped track the virus spread and enabled the rapid vaccine creation, it’s also contributing to a rise in everyday citizen surveillance and risking a deep erosion of our fundamental rights from which we might never recover. 

Against this backdrop, the insight that iHUMAN gives audiences from inside and at the forefront of the AI industry is more important and urgent than ever. We’ve been privileged to be able to share the film with citizens and policymakers across Europe and beyond in events and screenings.

On 10 December, in the framework of International Human Rights Day, we joined the Council of Europe for a special “AI and law” event exploring the deep impact of AI on human rights.

Speaking to around 300 virtual participants, Estonian Ambassador to the Committee of Ministers Rasmus Lumi gave a keynote address which emphasised the importance of putting humans back in the centre of the AI debate. Jan Kleijssen Director of Information Society, Claudia Luciani Director of Democratic Governance and Patrick Penninckx Head of Information Society then joined academics Karine Gentelet and Nathalie Smuha for a discussion centred on the need for AI accountability and binding legal rules to strengthen the position of citizens to contest for their rights.

We were pleased to welcome students from Pontonniers International High School in Strasbourg to the event. Having seen the film and had a classroom debate in advance, they asked our panel pertinent and thoughtful questions about the role AI can play in combating climate change, whether there is a point beyond which AI should not be exploited, and how we can effectively regulate this technology. Students will now reflect on the event outcomes and write follow-up reports, we look forward to reading these in January!

Catch up with the whole event on-demand here.

The same day, iHUMAN was released in UK cinemas! Reviews by Guardian and Indie Visible described it as an “eye-opener” and “one not to miss” – we couldn’t agree more. Government regulations thankfully permitted in-person screenings at 10 independent cinemas nationwide including Barbican, Rich Mix, HOME and Rio, and through a partnership with Modern Films anyone can see the film at home with cinema-on-demand

Click here to purchase iHUMAN tickets, available until 7 February 2021.

As part of the film promotion, on Friday 11 December, our Executive Director Danielle joined Ivana Bartoletti (Deloitte, Women Leading in AI), Elena Sinel (Teens in AI Founder) and Tonje Hessen Schei for a lively virtual debate hosted by Bird’s Eye View Entertainment.

The discussion centred on the concentration of power in big tech, the right to privacy and the need to nurture the next generation of passionate, ethical AI creators. Speakers credited iHUMAN for showing the geo-politics of data, and concluded that we need to both regulate the behaviour of humans and reclaim our ability as citizens to question, challenge and make sure that we “do the right thing with what we create”.

The following Monday 14 December, our Global Impact Director Amy co-hosted a virtual panel event for more than 100 participants with Open Rights Group. Shannon Vallor (Edinburgh Futures Institute), Gillian Docherty (The Data Lab) and Professor Karen Yeung (University of Birmingham) exchanged views on how AI is shaping society, and spoke about the importance of addressing issues of bias and discrimination in Scotland’s upcoming national AI strategy. 

See the discussion on-demand here and for more on how Scotland’s AI strategy is of global concern, read Amy’s piece in Digit, co-authored with ORG Scotland Director Matthew Rice.  

iHUMAN is all about provoking critical debate so that together we decide on our AI future. We’re keen to empower audiences to be informed about AI and equipped to protect their fundamental rights: click here to learn more and take action.

DARK WATERS

‘We should not be allowed to be used as chemical waste dumps’ – Rob Bilott

On Thursday 17 December, 150 stakeholders joined a live virtual discussion with Rob Bilott, Dr. Maria Neira WHO Director of Climate and Health, Anne-Sofie Backer Chemsec Executive Director, Dr. Arlene Blum Green Science Policy Institute and Laura Facciolo of Italian grassroots organisation Mamme No PFAS which took stock of all that Dark Waters has achieved in 2020 and asked what needs to happen next.

Speakers proposed that we need to limit the definition of “essential use” for PFAS and demand and require transparency so people can know what is in their everyday products. Rob Bilott argued that we need to recognise a right to clean blood, just as we have a right to clean air and water. And Dr. Neira welcomed the suggestion that we should consider an addendum to the Paris Climate Agreement to end use of and provide protection against toxic chemicals.

Watch the discussion online here and for a round-up of all the Dark Waters global achievements, see this video from Participant Media.

Some final year-end thoughts

We believe that storytelling can change policy – Think-Film Impact Production

Major impact has been achieved this year. With our incredible films, partners and wider impact communities we have together:

  • Changed European political conversations on AI to focus on human-centred governance

  • Banned PFAS in Europe

  • Revitalised international political awareness of Syria and energised humanitarian action

We started the year with huge in-person gatherings in Brussels; while Covid forced our transitioned online we ended 2020 running high-level virtual policy discussions from our living rooms, ultimately sharing film impact messages with audiences across wide geographies.

We end this year saying goodbye to Thomas Walsh, our incredible intern and policy officer. With thanks for all his hard work, we wish him well for his final year of university studies.

So much is going on behind the scenes at Think-Film, and we’re excited to share with you in January some of what will take place in 2021 – new projects, new expansions, new horizons. So follow us on social media and join our mailing list.

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Stay safe and see you in the new year!