Some European legislation on artificial intelligence (AI) had been expected at least since 16 July 2019. On that date, Ursula von der Leyen had pledged that, within 100 days of her election as President of the European Commission, she would have proposed new legislation on AI.
At that time, I remarked that it was a reasonable strategy but an unrealistic timeline. The High-Level Expert Group on AI (HLEG, of which I was a member), organised by the European Commission, had only recently published its Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy AI (HLEGAI, 2019) and its Policy and Investment Recommendations for Trustworthy AI (HLEGAI, 2019). It seemed evident that the next step would have been the translation of those guidelines and recommendations into a legal framework (Floridi, 2019). However, the work carried out by the HLEG had also shown that the road ahead was going to be long and laborious. I figured it would have taken at least a year, not three months. I was optimistic. On 19 February 2020, the Commission published the White Paper on AI—A European Approach to Excellence and Trust (European Commission, 2020). The document outlined a risk-based approach to AI and policies to promote the uptake of such technology. But, meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic had begun to spread, with its deadly effects and immense disruptions. Despite this, on 21 April, 2021, the European Commission published the proposal of the new EU Artificial Intelligence Act (henceforth AIA), or, to use its full name, the Proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and the Council laying down harmonised rules on Artificial Intelligence (Artificial Intelligence Act) and amending certain Union legislative acts (Artificial Intelligence Act 21, 2021). According to the European Data Protection Supervisor website, the AIA is “the first initiative, worldwide, that provides a legal framework for Artificial Intelligence (AI)”. Regardless of whether this may be true (see, for example, the US National AI Initiative Act, which became law on 1 January 2021), the AIA is one of the most influential regulatory steps taken so far internationally. On the whole, it is a good starting point to ensure that the development of AI in the EU is ethically sound, legally acceptable, socially equitable, and environmentally sustainable, with a vision of AI that seeks to support the economy, society, and the environment. This is no small ambition, and it will take time and effort to reach a final text that can come close to fulfil it. Yet, the ambition, like von der Leyen’s pledge, remains substantially reasonable because the EU is ideally placed to deliver such a normative framework.
INSIGHT AND SOURCES
Find the full article: “Mario Draghi sets tone in cooling EU-China relations” by Luciano Floridi on the website: springernature.com