European Commission Moves Forward with AI Ethics Programme

European Commission AI Ethics

The European Commission presented its next steps for building public trust and developing an ethical code surrounding the use of artificial intelligence.

A pilot programme will be launched by the European Commission (EC) this summer to further develop ethical guidelines surrounding the use of artificial intelligence (AI).

The ethical framework is part of the EC’s AI strategy, launched in April 2018. This aims to increase public and private investment to more than €20 billion per year over the next decade; boosting the availability of data, fostering talent and ensuring public trust in the emerging technology.

The EC said it will take a three-step approach to develop AI guidelines, which includes setting out the ‘key requirements’ for trustworthy AI, launching a large-scale pilot phase for feedback from stakeholders, and working on building international consensus for human-centric AI.

Seven general guidelines were officially presented by a group of independent experts who have been appointed to develop the AI framework.

These include:

  • Human agency and oversight: “AI systems should enable equitable societies by supporting human agency and fundamental rights, and not decrease, limit or misguide human autonomy.”
  • Robustness and safety: “Trustworthy AI requires algorithms to be secure, reliable and robust enough to deal with errors or inconsistencies during all life cycle phases of AI systems.”
  • Privacy and data governance: “Citizens should have full control over their own data, while data concerning them will not be used to harm or discriminate against them.”
  • Transparency: “The traceability of AI systems should be ensured.”
  • Diversity, non-discrimination and fairness: “AI systems should consider the whole range of human abilities, skills and requirements, and ensure accessibility.”
  • Societal and environmental well-being: “AI systems should be used to enhance positive social change and enhance sustainability and ecological responsibility.”
  • Accountability: “Mechanisms should be put in place to ensure responsibility and accountability for AI systems and their outcomes.”

During the summer, the Commission will invite companies, public administrations and organisation to sign up to the European AI Alliance, which will issue a notification when the pilot starts.

Members of the expert group will also present and explain the guidelines to relevant stakeholders in member states across the European Union.

In a statement yesterday Andrus Ansip, VP of the Digital Single Market said: “I welcome the work undertaken by our independent experts. The ethical dimension of AI is not a luxury feature or an add-on. It is only with trust that our society can fully benefit from technologies.

“Ethical AI is a win-win proposition that can become a competitive advantage for Europe: being a leader of human-centric AI that people can trust.”

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Treading a Different Path

The announcement marks a significant moment for the European Commission and its vision for artificial intelligence in the public sphere across Europe. The United States operates largely under a free-market approach driven by tech giants such as Google or Amazon, while China continues to follow a centralised route.

Meanwhile, the EU appears to be placing an emphasis on the role of ethics in the development of the tech as it looks to compete amid an unfolding global race.

AI is expected to benefit a broad range of sectors in years to come, including healthcare, energy, agriculture, financial services and the automotive industry. However, the rise of AI could be accompanied by new challenges for the future of work and is expected to raise legal and ethical questions.

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