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Artificial intelligence: huge potential if ethical risks are addressed

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News | European Parliament

Today, AIDA Rapporteur Axel Voss (EPP, Germany) presented his draft report on “Artificial Intelligence in a Digital Age” to AIDA Committee Members. The AIDA Committee started its work in September 2020. In its mandate, the Committee was tasked to explore the impact of AI on the EU economy and its different sectors, to analyse the AI approach of third countries, and to chart the road ahead.

Since last year, AIDA has organised several hearings on topics ranging from AI’s impact on the health sector to AI in transport. The insights gathered at these events have fed into the draft report. The AIDA final report is the main output of the committee, and the final version is due next spring.

The draft text, presented today by the rapporteur, says that the public debate should shift towards a focus on the enormous potential of AI, which offers humankind the unique chance to improve almost every area of our lives. AI could help combat climate change, pandemics and global hunger, and enhance quality of life through personalised medicine.

According to the draft document, AI can substantially increase productivity, innovation, growth and job creation. The EU should not regulate AI as a technology; instead, the type, intensity and timing of regulatory intervention should solely depend on the type of risk associated with a particular use of an AI system. The text warns that the EU is currently falling behind in the global tech race that will determine the future political and economic global power balance. In order to remain both economically competitive and a global power, the EU needs to become a global power in AI, the text say.

The draft report identifies policy options for unlocking the potential of AI in health, environment and climate change, competitiveness, and the labour market. It notes that autonomous AI systems are at odds with the information duties laid down in the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which has led to legal uncertainty and lack of cooperation in the health sector.

The draft report also highlights the challenge of reaching a consensus within the global community on minimum standards for the responsible use of AI, and concerns about military research and technological developments into weapon systems without human oversight.

The draft text stresses that AI technologies could however pose crucial ethical and legal questions. Authoritarian regimes apply AI systems to control, spy on, monitor and rank their citizens. Dominant tech platforms use them to obtain more information on a person than is possessed by public authorities or their doctors, lawyers or bankers. According to the draft, this challenges the sovereignty of our nation states, the foundations of democratic systems and the safeguarding of fundamental rights.

The draft report (and any amendments) will be put to a vote in committee in March 2022, followed by a plenary debate and vote in May.

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Human Rights

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