Artificial intelligence: A risk worth taking?

We spoke to MEPs from across Parliament about their expectations for the upcoming European Commission White Paper on AI.
European Parliament Audiovisual

HELP, NOT HINDER

Geoffroy Didier (FR, EPP) is a vice-chair of Parliament’s Special Committee on Artificial Intelligence in a Digital Age

While AI technologies are beneficial and deserve to be encouraged at the European level, they must nevertheless be regulated to remain trustworthy. AI must be a tool for humans, mastered by, and at the service of, humans.

As rapporteur for the EPP Group, I campaigned for, and obtained from all the political groups, a commitment that the European Parliament officially advocates for a fair balance between technological progress and human respect. We have convinced all political groups of the need to regulate only high-risk technologies so as not to hinder economic innovation, particularly among SMEs.

While some technologies, such as facial recognition, are significant and clearly deserve to be controlled, others - such as leisure applications on a cell phone - should in no way be subject to the same normative constraints. By adopting this important text, the European Parliament is helping develop the resources of AI while controlling its potential excesses.

 

RISKS NEED ADDRESSING

Marcel Kolaja (CZ, Greens/ EFA) is the European Parliament’s vice-president responsible for ICT Innovation Strategy

The White Paper on AI lacks safeguards against risks its use poses. If we focus future legislation on only high-risk-applications in high-risk sectors, as defined by the Commission, we will fail to address some of the most pressing societal challenges.

The question of discrimination, data protection or online freedom of expression must be also addressed. For example, AI is used by companies to moderate content on their platforms. As a side effect, vulnerable groups can find their content de-prioritised or omitted. There are similar issues with the ranking of content and the amplification of online fake news. In addition, future legislation has to restrict AI use to non-sensitive areas.

This means that the use of facial recognition technologies in public spaces needs to be banned, as it raises serious fundamental rights concerns. Proper enforcement requires the possibility of verifying compliance. The Commission unfortunately only suggests keeping records for a limited time and to make them available to authorities upon request. Due to the future enormous scale of the use of AI, it is questionable whether authorities would have enough resources.

Therefore, companies should be incentivised to release training data sets under an open licence and design AI systems in a transparent manner.

 

DRIVING INNOVATION AND COMPETITIVENESS

Eva Maydell (BG, EPP) is a Member of Parliament’s Special Committee on Artificial Intelligence in a Digital Age

With the White paper on AI, we have a good plan for everything we need to think about when trying to develop AI in the EU: data, innovation, a focus on SMEs and skills, the need to develop ecosystems and address societal risks.

AI should be seen as a solution to some of Europe’s biggest problems. The data show that, from an economic perspective, the main problem is our productivity, which is lower than our main global competitors. This is a real threat to Europe’s prosperity, which is one of the founding elements of Europeaness.

Therefore, we need to use AI to change that. This can be done by including Europe’s businesses, as they are the ones who can best serve their interests in developing and implementing AI. There is a buzz around AI both economically and societally and we need to use it as a catalyst to drive digitalisation and innovation, areas where the EU lags behind the US and China. We need to use the AI buzz to get back into a globally competitive digital position.

 

AN ETHICAL THRESHOLD

Ibán García Del Blanco (ES, S&D) is rapporteur on Parliament’s report on Ethical Aspects of Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Related Technologies

The massive rollout of AI entails a technological leap comparable to the Industrial Revolution. Substantial changes will occur in the labour market, in the relationship with public authorities, in personal relationships and even in our own domestic life. When Ronald Dworkin spoke of science, he stressed that it was both a promise and a threat.

When we talk about AI, we talk about benefits and/ or risks on a scale not previously known. After many months of work, the European Parliament has approved the legislative report on the ethical aspects of AI, robotics and related technologies - the first comprehensive text of its kind in the world. The EU is leading the legal establishment of an ethical threshold that, on the one hand, protects European citizens from possible adversities and, on the other, provides the added value of trust in European AI worldwide.

This is an ethical threshold that is consistent with our principles and values, as reflected in the Charter of Fundamental Rights and congruent with our civilising project - a human-centred approach to technological development. We need a regulation that applies to AI developed in Europe, and represents a demanding regulatory imperative for anyone who intends to operate in the Union.

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