With the intrusion of early artificial intelligence (AI) applications, ranging from image recognition to machine translation, in day-to-day lives and with people beginning to perceive life with robo-advisors and autonomous vehicles, it is time for Europe to shape its own AI future based on people’s shared perception.
If Europe doesn’t act quickly, then the impact of AI on humans’ lives, their cognitive processes, their jobs, and their societal and interpersonal relations will be decided somewhere else. This is the key message of a JRC new report titled “Artificial Intelligence: A European perspective.”
The aim of the study is to look at the global advancement of AI in present times and outline some of the pitfalls and options for EU policymakers in view of the competing visions and intense competition from both China and the US.
Benefits and concerns over AI
The study takes stock of the latest advancements in the AI field ensuing from improved algorithms, increased processing power, and the phenomenal development in the variety and volume of digital data.
It found that although ensuing applications of AI can be highly advantageous, they also pose a number of concerns, particularly in sensitive areas like the criminal justice system, human resource management, or political campaigning. A major area of concern is that several AI methods are similar to “black boxes” and, added to this, there is a lack of complete understanding of their internal workings. This restricts the scientific analysis of algorithms, the ability to recover from confrontational events, and complicates the supervision of humans.
US, China, Europe—diverse approaches to AI
Hence, it becomes all the more significant as to what vision should be followed in the AI development. The report also states that AI players are presently focused on the US, Europe, and China with discrete differences in their outlook.
In between “AI for control” and “AI for profit,” Europe can possibly embrace “AI for society” and make fair AI systems the trademark of European development in this field. Such systems are known to be “secure and ethical by design.”
Avoiding brain drain—a challenge for Europe
In this attempt, Europe can bank on its strengths in automotive, research, robotics, and even data protection, says the report. If innovation is encouraged in AI, top talent can be attracted and local initiatives can be supported, or else, a brain drain from Europe will hinder the economic prospects.
For instance, it has been projected that globally, there are only approximately 22,000 PhDs on AI and 5000 scientists who have delivered presentations on AI studies at scientific conferences. However, there is still a huge demand for many more. Consequently, salaries are increasing phenomenally and training skilled Europeans without offering them incentives afterward will further increase the brain drain from Europe.
The threat of becoming a “data colony”
Another major concern is the application of data. If European values and interests are asserted in the way the data is applied, then such data can boost people’s economic growth. If this is not done, then there is a risk of ending up as a “data colony.” At present, the huge amounts of data offered by governments, companies, and citizens in Europe end up outside the continent. The data can be managed in a better way and can be enriched with semantic context, which is critical for training novel algorithms.
Jobs landscape will change
The report also claims that AI will reorganize the present jobs landscape with both winners and losers—an aspect which is equally important.
Investment should be made in better education and re-skilling to help workers to scale up the rungs of drudgery, or else, there will be countless numbers of European who will no longer have jobs.
Coordinated strategy with a European flavor needed
In conclusion, the report says that if the EU wishes to get AI right, then a coordinated strategy is required that builds on its strengths in industry and research, on its traditions in balancing the societal and individual interest, and on its diversity which can be harnessed via local data sharing ecosystems.
The EU’s network of Digital Innovation Hubs, in particular, could play a central role in the advancement of local ecosystems, bringing AI training, computing, data, and local collaborations together to devise AI solutions that address local problems.
AI at the European Commission
To draft ethics guidelines, the European Commission has set up the European High-Level Group on Artificial Intelligence. Such draft ethics guidelines will be conducive to feedback from the European AI Alliance later in December. In April 2018, the Commission presented its European approach to AI and will also present a coordinated plan on December 7th, 2018.