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AI showdown: France and UK ‘probably even’ in race to lead Europe

All across the world, governments are moving quickly to be at the forefront of the artificial intelligence (AI) revolution.

Since the release of ChatGPT by OpenAI in November, organizations of all stripes have awoken to the need to prepare for the AI era, and governments are scrambling to attract talent, pen favorable regulations, and encourage investment in the sector.

In Europe, two old rivals—France and the United Kingdom—are jostling for prime positions. In March, the U.K. government pledged £1 billion ($1.3 billion) to supercomputing and AI research, while at London Tech Week in June, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stated his intention to make the U.K. the “geographical home of global AI safety regulation.” In the same month, French President Emanuel Macron earmarked €500 million ($561 million), vowing to “invest like crazy on training and research.”

The race is ‘probably even,’ says Nabla CEO

A few factors are at play in a race like this, but according to the CEO of French AI startup Nabla, Alexandre Lebrun, it’s “probably even.”

On the face of it, it appears the U.K. has pledged more funds for AI development. However, being part of the EU, France will also benefit from the Horizon research and innovation fund. The Horizon fund has made €95.5 billion ($107 billion) available through 2027, and it’s almost certain that some of that will go towards AI research and development. All EU countries, including France, will benefit from this.

Regulations are also a factor. The EU has already passed its AI Act, and in typical fashion, it is taking a painstakingly detailed approach to AI with a strong focus on safety. The U.K., having left the EU in 2020, will be free to pen light-touch regulation as it sees fit, and so far, the British government has chosen only to produce a white paper advising each industry how to handle AI on its own.

As far as talent goes, both have their fair share. However, the U.K. has spent the better part of a decade positioning London as a tech mecca. Indeed, its efforts have paid off, with London now ranked the second-best tech startup hub after Silicon Valley, giving it an advantage when it comes to tech and entrepreneurial brainpower.

Opinion: Will blockchain technology play a role in the AI era?

While speculating which countries will come out on top of the AI race is interesting, and opportunities abound in the AI sector, there are many valid concerns about where the technology will lead humanity and how it might disrupt society.

Blockchain technology, while far from a solve-all, can play an important role in addressing several of these problems. Scalable blockchains can aid in data privacy and security as well as sharing and collaboration, being distributed global databases. They can also bring much-needed accountability to AI and help create models where no one party has complete control.

Yet, blockchain can do more than just ensure a safer, more transparent AI industry; it can also underpin a new global data marketplace. One of the biggest concerns about AI so far is whether artists whose content they have trained on should be compensated, and there are already lawsuits to that effect. Scalable public blockchains can enable companies training AI algorithms to pay creators for their content through micropayments, gaining time-stamped evidence that they had permission to use it in the process.

Of course, for any of this to be possible, an infinitely scalable public blockchain, accessible by all and capable of handling millions and even billions of transactions per second, would be necessary. The BSV blockchain is, so far, the only one fit for the job.

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