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EU aims for balanced regulation amid AI Act concerns

The European Union (EU) has hinted at proceeding with an even approach to artificial intelligence (AI) regulation after industry stakeholders swiped at its proposed AI Act.

EU President Ursula von der Leyen announced the regional bloc’s stance during her 2023 State of the Union address. Leyen stated that the EU will increase its investment in AI in the coming weeks to ensure that it remains in pole position regarding innovation and regulation.

“We have a narrowing window of opportunity to guide this technology responsibly,” said Leyen. “I believe Europe, together with partners, should lead the way on a new global framework for AI, built on three pillars: guardrails, governance, and guiding innovation.”

Leyen cited the EU’s AI Act as a template for AI guardrails, describing it as the “world’s first comprehensive pro-innovation law. The EU President urged global regulatory agencies to adopt key provisions of its rule book as it inches forward with adoption and implementation.

The Act provides for a licensing regime for AI developers, clear-cut labeling of AI-generated images, and a blanket ban on deploying models for predictive policing.

For governance, Leyen advocates for establishing a global body of AI researchers, technology companies, and academics to provide policymakers with real-time data. The President noted that a global governance approach for AI will ensure the development of a “fast and globally coordinated response.”

Despite the guardrails imposed by the EU’s AI Act, Leyen noted that Europe will remain the leader in AI innovation. The EU has three of the five most powerful supercomputers, with Leyen unveiling a plan to build on existing wins.

The EU will allow AI startups to leverage the supercomputers to train their AI models, which will be vital in improving the quality of innovation in the space.

Leyen concluded with a promise to open dialogue with AI developers to commit to voluntary safeguard, akin to an arrangement reached in the U.S. in July.

“We will work with AI companies so that they voluntarily commit to the principles of the AI Act before it comes into force,” said Leyen. “Now we should bring all of this work towards minimum global standards for safe and ethical use of AI.”

Tight rules threaten Europe’s lead

The EU’s lead on AI and other emerging technologies has come under threat after a group of tech executives criticized the incoming AI Act. According to the jointly-signed open letter, the executive expressed worry that the guardrails may have the unintended effect of stifling innovation.

Github also led a group of AI developers to petition the EU to lessen the rules on open-source AI to promote development and transparency in the space.

“The Act risks chilling open-source AI development and thus could undermine its goals of promoting responsible innovation in line with European values,” read Github’s open letter.

Some firms have threatened to migrate to new jurisdictions with fewer restrictions on AI developments, which pundits say could trigger massive talent and capital flight.

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