Can EU regulation ensure a conscious use of AI?


The European Union's AI Act is an initiative aimed at regulating the field of artificial intelligence. On Wednesday, March 13, the Parliament approved the regulation. It seeks to establish a legal framework for the use of AI, but also to position the EU at the forefront of global digital governance – at least on this aspect, and in this regard. 

The approach is comprehensive, touching on a wide spectrum of applications, from low-risk to high-risk categories, tailoring regulatory requirements accordingly. Katrin Nyman-Metcalf, Adjunct Professor at TalTech and Associated Expert for e-Governance Academy, guides us through propositions and principles of the AI Act, and how the EU plans to move toward ensuring a thoughtful and ethical use of artificial intelligence. This podcast episode was recorded shortly previous to the approval of the EU AI Act.

The EU AI Act – principles, features, mission

“This is one of the first legal attempts by the EU to harmonise AI regulation across member states and protect against negative effects. The EU AI Act introduces a risk categorisation for AI, dividing it into categories based on the level of risk each poses. This approach dictates the level of regulation needed, focusing on what the technology does – rather than prescribing specific uses. It's a general but effective method to ensure that AI development aligns with European values and standards. But it's also a measure to protect consumers, users, people,” Nyman-Metcalf begins with.

The categorisation of AI systems into risk profiles is crucial here – in a range that goes from ‘minimal’ to ‘unacceptable’ risk. This risk-based approach allows for a regulatory framework that is fairly nuanced and can adapt to the diverse applications of AI, from consumer products to critical infrastructure. At the heart of the EU AI Act, after all, lies the ambition to safeguard European values and consumer rights while fostering a good environment for innovation. Thus, the Act's dual focus: preventing fragmentation of AI regulations among member states and ensuring user and consumer protection. With an eye on the EU’s internal market dynamics, and one on its global competitiveness.

Moreover, the establishment of an EU AI office is expected to guide member states on the matter. “The EU AI office is set to play a coordinating role, not just overseeing regulation at the member state level but also facilitating dialogue with the industry and civil society. This approach, more proactive than previous initiatives like GDPR, aims to involve all relevant stakeholders from the outset, ensuring that the AI Act is shaped by a wide range of insights and concerns,” Nyman-Metcalf explains.

* this podcast episode has been recorded shortly previous to the approval of the EU AI Act


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