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Artificial Intelligence (AI) ambition is in full swing across Europe this spring as governments roll out visionary strategies to drive the development of world-leading AI technologies.
Last month, French President Emmanuel Macron laid out a plan for French leadership in AI, pledging to invest €1.5 billion of public funds. Since then, 25 European countries came together to sign a Declaration of Cooperation on the most important issues raised by Artificial Intelligence. Most recently, the UK House of Lords has published its view on how the UK can be best placed to take advantage of AI.
Research, workforce and ethics are the common thread across all three of these initiatives. Their importance is underscored today as the European Commission announces an EU-wide AI strategy. European Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip has said the strategy will “look at ways to join forces at European level, increase investments and encourage company take-up, to develop appropriate workforce skills, and address liability and ethical issues.”
As a technology and AI pioneer with a 100+ year presence in Europe, IBM is a strong supporter of Europe’s drive and vision for AI. We continue to invest here in Europe. In response to President Macron’s strategy, we recently announced the hiring of 400 AI experts in France, an announcement which was welcomed by the President himself. We carry out ground-breaking AI research in European labs, some of it as part of the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme.
It has long been our belief that successful Artificial Intelligence is about much more than economic gain, it is about creating an ethical framework to ensure the benefits of AI touch as many people as possible. The AI future belongs to all of us, not just the elite few. Europe is right to build its approach around ethics and human values. The new strategy aligns with European values and also the Union’s increasing leadership in areas such as data protection.
IBM’s commitment to the ethical, responsible advancement of AI is illustrated in our AI principles and in our broader Data Responsibility platform, where we emphasise that companies who deploy AI must do so in a responsible manner. We believe that the purpose of AI is to augment – not replace – human intelligence. We support transparency and data governance policies that will ensure people understand how an AI system came to a given conclusion or recommendation. We commit to helping people become equipped with the skills to partner successfully with the technology. We want others in the industry to take such an approach – our principles have been recently acknowledged by Vice-President Ansip and also the House of Lords report as a positive industry initiative.
Also to be commended in the governments’ approaches to AI is the commitment to open and constructive dialogue. The French and UK governments held wide ranging consultations and IBM was invited to contribute to both. The European Commission has indicated that it will work with its upcoming multidisciplinary expert group to launch a public consultation to develop guidelines on ethics and AI. Governments recognize that inclusive AI can only stem from an inclusive approach.
As AI takes shape in Europe, the signs are positive that governments and the European Commission are doing all they can to ensure that their policies not only enable AI but also encourage its responsible adoption, avoid premature and potentially problematic regulation and foster a meaningful dialogue with organizations working to move the technology forward. There is good reason, so far, to be optimistic.
–Liam Benham, Vice President of Government and Regulatory Affairs, IBM Europe