Cultural Differences as Excuses? Human Rights and Cultural Values in Global Ethics and Governance of AI

Pak Hang Wong*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Cultural differences pose a serious challenge to the ethics and governance of artificial intelligence (AI) from a global perspective. Cultural differences may enable malignant actors to disregard the demand of important ethical values or even to justify the violation of them through deference to the local culture, either by affirming the local culture lacks specific ethical values, e.g., privacy, or by asserting the local culture upholds conflicting values, e.g., state intervention is good. One response to this challenge is the human rights approach to AI governance, which is intended to be a universal and globally enforceable framework. The proponents of the approach, however, have so far neglected the challenge from cultural differences or left out the implications of cultural diversity in their works. This is surprising because human rights theorists have long recognized the significance of cultural pluralism for human rights. Accordingly, the approach may not be straightforwardly applicable in “non-Western” contexts because of cultural differences, and it may also be critiqued as philosophically incomplete insofar as the approach does not account for the (non-) role of culture. This commentary examines the human rights approach to AI governance with an emphasis on cultural values and the role of culture. Particularly, I show that the consideration of cultural values is essential to the human rights approach for both philosophical and instrumental reasons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)705-715
Number of pages11
JournalPhilosophy and Technology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Philosophy
  • History and Philosophy of Science

User-Defined Keywords

  • AI governance
  • Cultural diversity
  • Ethical pluralism
  • Human dignity
  • Human rights
  • Universal human interests


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