The EU is losing the AI race, says report adopted by MEPs

The EU is losing the AI race, says report adopted by MEPs
Conservative EPP politician and lead rapporteur Axel Voss. Credit: European Union 2018 - European Parliament

MEPs voted on Tuesday for a report that would see the EU develop a human-centric approach to AI, which could also set the global standard for the technology.

The report was adopted with 495 votes to 34, and 102 abstentions. The report made note of the technology's huge potential to complement human labour as well as how it can benefit health, the environment and the economy.

Lead MEP of the report Axel Voss (EPP) stressed that the EU now "has the unique chance to promote a human-centric and trustworthy approach to AI."

However, the report warned that the EU has fallen behind in the global tech race, and rules governing AI could be developed elsewhere, such as the US or China, which are less scrupulous in their use of citizen data.

Losing the tech race

If the EU doesn't act quickly, the report cautioned that it will become a "digital colony" of China, the US and other states and risk losing its political stability, social security and individual liberties.

Emerging technologies could lead to a loss of talent. Currently, only 8 out of the global top 200 digital companies are based in the EU.

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Voss warned that the situation is urgent and that the EU has to "concentrate, prioritise, invest", as failure to commercialise could have dire consequences.

The risks of AI

There is a darker side to the technology if it falls into the wrong hands. AI enables the automation of information processing at a scale not seen before, which is leading to mass surveillance and increased human rights abuses.

MEPs warned that authoritarian regimes are using AI to control, survey and rank citizens as well as restrict freedom of movement. Yet, it is increasingly emerging that even democracies are guilty of surveilling their citizens. Meanwhile, the tech giants are using AI to get access to more personal data.

Citizen profiling contains huge risks to democracy, as seen with the Facebook/Meta and Cambridge Analytica scandals. To avoid that risk, MEPs urged international cooperation between like-minded countries to safeguard human rights and minimise threats.

The report is not the final legislation on AI from the EU, however, as it is being discussed in two other parliamentary committees. The AI Act will be voted on in September and it aims to create a roadmap for EU policy towards the technology should look like up to 2030.

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