While the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) raises many hopes, particularly for medicine, its development is seen as largely unchecked. This week, AI took centre stage with the G7’s voluntary code of conduct, a trilateral meeting between ministers of France, Germany and Italy in Rome as well as US-president Biden’s “landmark” executive order and the international AI summit at Bletchley Park north of London.
In late October, the UN also set up an expert panel to make recommendations in the field of artificial intelligence, a technology with “transformative potential” yet also great risks to democracy and human rights. Secretary General António Guterres called on the panel to race “against the clock” and make recommendations on how to govern the use of AI by the end of 2023, identifying the risks it poses and the opportunities it presents.
G7: Voluntary Code of Conduct for AI Developers
On Monday, the G7 countries (Germany, Canada, the United States, France, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom) agreed on international guiding principles and a code of conduct for companies and institutions that develop artificial intelligence (AI) systems under the Hiroshima AI process. The guidelines aim at mitigating risks derived from this technology such as misinformation and violation of privacy or intellectual property.
This roadmap sets out to promote the development of “safe and reliable” AI systems internationally and to “manage their risks”, according to the joint statement, which also calls on all actors in the AI sector to commit to its compliance.
The G7 highlights the “innovative and transformative potential” of advanced AI systems, and in particular, generative models such as the ChatGPT chatbot, while recognising the need to “protect individuals, society and the principles shared”, in addition to “keeping humanity at the center”.
“I am pleased to welcome the G7 international Guiding Principles and the voluntary Code of Conduct, reflecting EU values to promote trustworthy AI. I call on AI developers to sign and implement this Code of Conduct as soon as possible,” EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement. She commented that “already a regulatory frontrunner with the AI Act, the EU is also contributing to AI guardrails and governance at global level.”
EU: Excessive regulation harmful to ability to compete globally
Germany, France and Italy want to cooperate more closely on the topic of AI so that Europe can compete more effectively against the US and China. The EU’s planned law regulating artificial intelligence must be based on an “innovation-friendly” approach, the economy ministers from the EU’s three largest economies said on Monday, while urging more investment in the new technology.
After meeting in Rome, the Economy Ministers Robert Habeck, Bruno Le Maire and Enterprise and Made in Italy Minister Adolfo Urso welcomed what would be the world’s first law covering AI, expected to be agreed on by the end of the year. But in a joint statement, they said it was “paramount to ensure that legislation in the EU is designed without unnecessary bureaucracy and that existing red tape is being cut”.
The law would regulate AI according to the level of risk: the higher the risk to individuals’ rights or health, for example, the greater the systems’ obligations.
The ministers consistently emphasised that Europe could hold its own at the international level when it comes to AI. Habeck said: “We don’t have to hide. We have companies that are better than the US tech giants in many areas.” At the same time, he urged faster decisions at the European level. “If it takes a three-and-a-half-year wait, we no longer have a chance,” he said. “We will end up regulating a market that no longer exists.”
If it takes a three-and-a-half-year wait, we no longer have a chance. We will end up regulating a market that no longer exists.Robert Habeck, German Minister for Economy
French Minister Le Maire pointed out that in the US, ten times as much money is currently being invested in AI than in Europe, saying the US invested 50 billion Euro (53 billion dollars) in AI last year, compared to the EU’s five billion and China’s ten billion Euro. The three ministers called for the simplification of procedures for multi-country projects, to help European start-ups. Italian Minister Urso, who hosted Monday’s talks, said AI would be a priority for his country’s presidency of the G7 in 2024.
In late October, Bulgarian Minister of e-Government Alexander Yolovski also said that the EU should regulate the use of technology, as it poses a high risk to fundamental rights and European values, but it should not engage in over-regulation.
In Slovenia, the International Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence (IRCAI) under the auspices of UNESCO has been open in Ljubljana since 2020. This summer, the first European Summer School on Artificial Intelligence took place with more than 630 participants from 42 countries.
“While small countries might not have as much funds as large players, specialisation and dedication to education and research can lend them a competitive edge in individual fields of AI,” said Slovenian Digital Transformation Minister Emilija Stojmenova Duh recently.
US: “Landmark” order on regulating AI, aim to work with allies on international rules
President Joe Biden issued an executive order Monday on regulating artificial intelligence, aiming for the United States to “lead the way” in global efforts to manage the technology’s risks.
The “landmark” order directs federal agencies to set new safety standards for AI systems. It also requires developers to share their safety test results and other critical information with the US government, according to a White House statement.
UK: Bletchley Park meeting – „beginnings“ or „missed opportunities“?
On Wednesday, countries including the United Kingdom, United States and China agreed the “need for international action” as political and tech leaders gathered for the world’s first summit on artificial intelligence (AI) safety. UK technology minister Michelle Donelan said the declaration “really outlines for the first time the world coming together to identify this problem”.
The objective of the two-day meeting held at historic Bletchley Park, north of London, where the Nazi-Germany Enigma code was cracked during World War 2, was to find “an international consensus” on the challenges presented by AI and how to address them and, for follow-up, it will propose the creation of a global panel of experts to make periodic reports.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak defended the invitation to China – a country that some accuse of technological espionage – “because a serious strategy cannot be developed if the global potential” of the sector is not involved.
After the recent trilateral agreement between Italy, Germany and France the Bletchey Park meeting marked “the beginning of a process of involvement of other continents to achieve what we hope for: a new global alliance, as for the climate, on the rules and protections to be adopted in response to the challenge of artificial intelligence”, Urso noted.
However, more than 100 UK and international organisations, experts and campaigners published an open letter Monday to Sunak, branding the summit a “missed opportunity” and too tailored towards “big tech”. The coalition – which includes unions, rights groups like Amnesty International and tech community voices – warned “communities and workers most affected by AI have been marginalised“, with the invites “selective and limited”.
AI beyond the European Union
In Europe, countries that are not directly involved in regulatory matters such as the EU’s AI Act, or in the G7 meeting, are nevertheless taking their own steps to tackle AI.
In North Macedonia, for example, at the initiative of the Fund for Innovation and Technology Development (FITD), a working group was formed in September 2021 to create the first National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence. The country will also host the 6th Regional E-commerce Conference in Skopje on November 14, with a focus on the use of AI’s potential. Representatives of companies such as Nestlé, Meta, Zalando, Allegro and Reebok, among others, will address the conference. The event is expected to bring together more than 600 entrepreneurs, e-traders, company directors and government representatives from North Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia.
Meanwhile, Albania aims to become part of the European Union’s Digital Europe program, which will be implemented until 2027. The Albanian government has already approved the draft law ratifying the agreement between the Republic of Albania and the European Union for participation in the Union’s program “Digital Europe”, which is currently receiving the approval of the committees of the Albanian parliament.
For further reading, you can find our last Key Story on AI here.
This article is published weekly. The content is based on news by agencies participating in the enr.
Editor’s note: The quote by Ursula von der Leyen as well as Emilija Stojmenova Duh have been corrected.