Belgium (Brussels Morning Newspaper) The idea connectivity is a megatrend in this 21st century is not new but gains continuously more importance. It was already very present in the previous decade in EU pep talks on EU relations with Asia eg. It is also the abbreviation most used for one of the Directorates General of the European Commission (DG Connect) and remains a buzzword present in the different summits and exchanges with leaders of non-EU countries worldwide. Connectivity was and is in EC jargon understood as permitting closer economic and personal relationships and includes hard and soft factors, infrastructure as well as cultural relations.
Mid May the iF Design Forum published its second design trend report which summarizes the influence of megatrends on current global design – showing the impact design disciplines have on each other and how social trends and megatrends influence each other. iF Design was founded in 1953 as Die Gute Industrieform e.V under the impulse of the visionary entrepreneur and designer Philip Rosenthal, then at the head of the famous porcelain manufacturer of the same name. iF design is known worldwide for its yearly prizes rewarding outstanding creativity and design in different competitions.
The trend report was written in collaboration with the ZukunftsInstitut Frankfurt. They pointed out 6 megatrends that have a particularly great impact on design. First and most present is connectivity, reaching far beyond digital technology. One conclusion is that the two dimensions “real” and “digital” are merging and indeed we realize bit by bit how this is the new normal in our daily life environment eg. when driving a car, meeting online and so much more such as listening to music, taking a flight and getting stopped by the police. The increasing invasion of artificial intelligence (AI) across all parts of society prompts many questions and challenges for our societies. How to adapt our views on what is human?
What is fairness when computers shape decision-making, who is creating the future and how can we ensure that these creators reflect diverse communities and complex social dynamics? We find an attempt to elaborate on all this in the excellent brochure written by the New York artists Mimi Onuoha and Diana Nucera, alias Mother Cyborg, back in 2018, entitled “A people’s guide to AI” . It also features a glossary of terms useful to follow and enter the ongoing debates. Debates which these days are also fueled by the legislative process going on in the EU that is advancing in adapting an AI Act.
An Eu pioneer in setting standards.
When the European Commission unveiled in April 2021 its proposition for a new Artificial Intelligence Act ( AI Act) in April 2021 they also proposed to adapt a set of rules tailored on a risk-based approach with four levels of risks: unacceptable, high-risk, limited risk and minimal risk AI. Unacceptable harmful uses of AI that contravene EU values such as social scoring by governments will be banned because of the unacceptable risk they create.
In its position of december 6 in 2022, the European Council voicing the member states’ positions, extended to private actors the prohibition on using AI for social scoring. Furthermore, the provision prohibiting the use of AI systems that exploit the vulnerabilities of a specific group of persons now also covers persons who are vulnerable due to their social or economic situation. As regards the prohibition of the use of ‘real-time’ remote biometric identification systems in publicly accessible spaces by law enforcement authorities, the text clarifies the objectives where such use is strictly necessary for law enforcement purposes and for which law enforcement authorities should therefore be exceptionally allowed to use such systems.
Now MEP’s, as we can read in the press release of the EP, substantially amended the list in their text to include bans on intrusive and discriminatory uses of AI systems such as biometric identification systems. It is worth going through the list that can be found in the press release (AI Act: a step closer to the first rules on Artificial Intelligence | News | European Parliament ) of which we took over several passages. One should take the time to inform oneself on the classification of high risk areas where they added beside the harm to people’s health, safety, fundamental rights or the environment also AI systems to influence voters in political campaigns and in recommender systems used by social media platforms (with more than 45 million users under the Digital Services Act) to the high-risk list. Obligations for providers of foundation models* who would have to guarantee robust protection of fundamental rights, health and safety and the environment, democracy and rule of law, are also added. These providers would need to assess and mitigate risks, comply with design, information and environmental requirements and register in the EU database. Generative foundation models, like GPT, would have to comply with additional transparency requirements, like disclosing that the content was generated by AI, designing the model to prevent it from generating illegal content and publishing summaries of copyrighted data used for training.
This made tycoons in AI such as Sam Altman from OpenAI, the company that developed the bot Chat GPT, and Elon Musk as owner of Twitter threatening to withdraw from the European market as they consider this legislation over regulates too much, but what is too much? It is in an interesting and factual way discussed in the American news website Quartz in an article by Ananya Bhattacharia published on May 25. The central technological question seems to be how to respond to the honest question of transparency over the data collected to train the algorithm.
Beside those who are on a collision course you have most that are on a wait and see stance and on the other side you have Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet that is Google’s parent company, who is taking a proactive approach in collaborating with the lawmakers in the EU working on an AI pact ahead of the definitive adoption of the AI regulation. Thierry Breton, the responsible European Commissioner, is clearly also on this line and dismissed the statements of Sam Altman as blackmail , objecting to the statement that regulation is going to hamper progress in generative AI.
A proportional regulation.
When the text in the EP was voted, Romanian MEP Dragos Tudorachi from Renew, rapporteur for the Committee on Civil Liberties (LIBE), very triumphantly declared: “The AI Act is very likely the most important piece of legislation in this mandate. And it’s the first legislation of this kind worldwide, which means that the EU can lead the way, globally, in making AI human-centric, trustworthy, and safe.” He iwas echoed by the other rapporteur, Italian Brando Benifei of the Socialists (S&D) of the Internal Market Committee (IMCO): “We are on the verge of putting in place landmark legislation that must resist the challenge of time. It is crucial to build citizens’ trust in the development of AI, to set the European way for dealing with the extraordinary changes that are already happening, as well as to steer the political debate on AI at the global level. We are confident our text balances the protection of fundamental rights with the need to provide legal certainty to businesses and stimulate innovation in Europe”.
Both rapporteurs will also have to negotiate on behalf of the EP the final legislative text with the negotiators from the Council after the EP votes the text in the plenary, expected to happen during the mid June session in Strasburg. We ll see what comes out at the end but meanwhile we may expect further discussions worldwide where balances in regulating lay and also how further research can be done. This attention for further research and development is present in the draft legislation as we can read in the press bulletin stating the draft pays attention to the way innovation is supported while protecting citizen’s rights. To boost AI innovation, MEPs added exemptions to these rules for research activities and AI components provided under open-source licenses. The new law promotes regulatory sandboxes, or controlled environments, established by public authorities to test AI before its deployment. MEPs want to boost citizens’ right to file complaints about AI systems and receive explanations of decisions based on high-risk AI systems that significantly impact their rights. MEPs also reformed the role of the EU AI Office, which would be tasked with monitoring how the AI rulebook is implemented.
Despite the outcry from Elon Musk and Sam Altman it is clear that generative AI poses concerns and over the whole world critics are calling for increased oversight. China, India and also, though more hesitating the US, are also thinking of developing their own rules but the EU is the closest to creating a first-of-its-kind regulation for ChaptGPT-like AI tools, showing the way as she did with the GDPR rules. And funny enough even Chat GPT, as Quartz news site remembers us, in response to a request by journal Scientific American, penned a thoughtful essay on how ChatGPT should be regulated. It established a need to strike a balance, identifying that “overly strict regulations could stifle innovation” but “insufficient regulation could lead to abuses of the
A question of democracy.
Paul Nemitz , principal advisor for the DG Justice and consumers in the EC, interviewed by Gian Paolo Accardo of Vox Europe, explicitly makes the link with democracy and different world views: “Without binding law, the power of technology to shape society lies solely in the hands of those who develop and own it. If society were organized in this way, democracy would not work, nor could we ensure respect for fundamental rights. The EU’s internal market also needs regulation, because without a law at EU level, we would soon have a fragmentation of legislation across 27 Member States and thus no functioning internal market in high technology. The EU’s AI Act addresses many important issues related to the development and use of AI and, like everything in democracy, will be an act of compromise, a compromise in the right direction between different political world views.
”Therefore we may see the provocative declarations of the tycoons dealing in AI as part of the power game they have the habit to play and an expression of their different worldview giving way to a more conflictual way to arrive at a compromise. In the EU juridical culture with the eminence of civil law is different and even more now after Brexit, than the one in common law regimes. It can be useful to read again the work of Donald Kalff and Andrea Renda, ‘Hidden Treasures’,edited by the Brussels Think Tank CEPS in 2019, trying to map Europe’s sources of competitive advantage in doing business whereby they put in number one of the hidden treasures the efficiency of EU contract law. In particular the issue of pre-contractual liability has been subject to a completely diverging treatment in civil law and common law systems.
They make the point that precisely this offers an advantage at times innovative enterprises operate on a project basis in the context of open innovation projects that often need tailor made coalitions of institutions and enterprises. Contractual schemes are essential and the availability of a well shaped legal framework can significantly reduce transaction costs, facilitating partners by offering efficient default options and helping partners avoid detailed, complex negotiations in which typically the strongest parties have more resources and superior bargaining power. In previous articles we stressed the importance of avoiding errors in design. We get the impression this legislation realizes a balanced interaction of connectivity and disconnectivity but of course the proof of the pudding is in eating it. We’ll first see what kind of legal pudding will finally be served and how it will be digested by us all.