19 Feb, 2020

Artificial Intelligence: Made in Europe

This op-ed was written by Andrus Ansip, Nicola Beer, Stéphane Séjourné and Dragoş Tudorache, Members of the Renew Europe group in the European Parliament

Artificial Intelligence offers key opportunities to foster prosperity and increased welfare for our 500 million citizens within the EU and is already playing a tremendous role in our everyday life. As a strategic engine of productivity and economic growth — if used correctly — it will open new frontiers in healthcare, agriculture, energy, transport, climate and various industrial processes. It is of key importance when it comes to solving many of the challenges we face today and it can be the EU’s best chance to deliver global technological leadership.

In the European Parliament, Renew Europe is strongly defending a European coordinated approach to seizing and making the most of the opportunities offered by AI. Our common goal should be to set international standards based on our values: fostering economic development while defending citizens’ rights. Now is the time to put in place an operational framework in terms of investment, research, innovation, and data infrastructure in order to stay at the forefront of this unique technological revolution and become a global leader.

If not developed and deployed adequately, AI technology has the potential to violate our citizens’ fundamental rights and freedoms. We must carefully assess, for example, if live facial recognition in a city to scan crowds and identify individuals in real time is in line with our values or not. AI will inevitably change the way we produce, work, consume and live. Therefore we must ensure full transparency: making public how algorithms learn and function will help to prevent discriminatory misuse.

Technologies function and depend on how we design them. In order to tackle these ethical challenges, Renew Europe welcomes the Von der Leyen Commission’s commitment to present a legislative initiative on the ethical aspects of AI. We call on the Commission to establish a common set of standards that ensure the development of trustworthy, ethically responsible and technically robust AI and complimentary legislative actions on a risk-based approach, where needed, in order to protect our citizen’s fundamental rights and freedoms.

The European Commission must also asses the ethical risks in terms of biases, where biased data can lead to discrimination based on social, economic, ethnic, sexual, or disability status, or any other factor, and propose solutions to address them. We in Renew Europe are of the opinion that producers and operators must evaluate and anticipate the risks of misuse of their own technology, potentially caused by a cyber attack, in order to be able to respond effectively if problems arise. Furthermore, the Commission should also propose sectorial requirements on a risk-based approach.

The EU should aim to act as a norm-setter in a hyper-connected world by adopting an efficient strategy towards its external partners. Third countries like China and the U.S. are investing massively in AI. However, the EU still has the chance to take the lead on the global arena and proactively influence the development of AI worldwide, in line with our European values and fundamental rights, through multilateralism and coordination with like-minded countries in international organizations such as the OECD, G7, and G20.

An important step towards developing AI at the European level is to enhance the free flow of non-personal data as a pre-requisite for a competitive data economy within the Digital Single Market. This will be crucial to fully unleash the benefits of the data economy, allowing companies and public administrations to store and process non-personal data wherever they choose in the EU.

Furthermore, we underline the necessity to coordinate investments made at European, national and regional levels, and we support cooperation with the European Investment Bank as well as national banks. As AI and other emerging disruptive technologies are capital intensive we must foster a dynamic EU-wide investor community. Europe must develop new financing instruments to leverage private capital, building upon the increase of equity investments in AI start-ups.

This is the only way to ensure Europe’s continued competitiveness in our globalized world and to shape this new-generation technology in a way that encourages our entrepreneurs and developers to invest. Let us not forget that Europe is a continent with enormous resources, well-educated citizens, and cultural diversity. We have all the prerequisites to increase our global influence and thus be able to create prosperity and new opportunities for a better life, for all our citizens. Now is the time to take the lead on the international scene in developing well-needed AI in line with our European values, rights and freedoms.

Download Renew Europe’s full position paper on AI

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