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Artificial intelligence? Yes, but. The EU Commission reaffirms the “ethical dimension”

The "Digital Day 2019" gave Community leadership the opportunity to disseminate the contents of the document  “Ethical guidelines on artificial intelligence.” Research, innovation and robotics applied to everyday life. “A human-centric AI”, explained the Commissioner for Digital Economy Mariya Gabriel. Seven recommendations, extending the gaze to the future

“Reliable”, “anthropocentric”: these are two features requested for Artificial Intelligence to ensure its fundamental “ethical dimension.” The “Digital Day 2019”, celebrated April 9, valued in Brussels – with conferences, documents, futuristic projects, discussions with experts and scientists – presents a new understanding of artificial intelligence (known at global level as AI). It should be said that AI is not confined to imaginative speaking-robots or sci-fi Hollywood movies. In fact it relates to everyday life, where its applications are already fully operational: from smartphones to medicine, from public administration to industrial production, up to video games. With some related risks, starting from the replacement of workers with “intelligent machines.”

It’s not a luxury feature. ” The ethical dimension of AI is not a luxury feature or an add-on: it is only with trust that our society can fully benefit from technologies. Ethical AI is a win-win proposition that can become a competitive advantage for Europe: being a leader of human-centric AI that people can trust.” The statement is contained in the document titled “Ethical guidelines on Artificial Intelligence” presented on April 9 by the European Commission, drawn up by a group of independent experts appointed last year. The Commission addresses industry, research institutions and public authorities in particular. The goals of the initiative include: “increasing public and private investments to at least €20 billion annually over the next decade, making more data available, fostering talent and ensuring trust.” Artificial Intelligence is thus viewed as an opportunity, and it’s not limited to that.

Innovative sector. “Artificial Intelligence (AI) can benefit a wide-range of sectors, such as healthcare, energy consumption, cars safety, farming, climate change and financial risk management”, stated the Commission that on the occasion of “Digital Day 2019” released the guidelines on the ethical dimension of this innovative sector of civic and economic life. “AI can also help to detect fraud and cybersecurity threats, and enables law enforcement authorities to fight crime more efficiently.”

“AI brings new challenges for the future of work, and raises legal and ethical questions.”

To ensure the ethical development of AI, by the autumn 2019 the Commission “will launch a set of networks of AI research excellence centres”, it will begin “setting up networks of digital innovation hubs and together with Member States and stakeholders, start discussions to develop and implement a model for data sharing and making best use of common data spaces.”

Essential principles. In the same guidelines the Commission set out seven key requirements for “reliable”, “anthropocentric” Artificial Intelligence. The first requirement is “Human agency and oversight” meaning that AI systems “should enable equitable societies by supporting human agency and fundamental rights and not decrease, limit or misguide human autonomy.” Second requirement: “Robustness and safety” – “trustworthy AI requires algorithms to be secure, reliable and robust enough to deal with errors or inconsistencies during all life cycle phases of AI systems.” Third: “Privacy and data governance”, i.e. citizens “should have full control over their own data, while data concerning them will not be used to harm or discriminate against them.”

Accountability. Fourth requirement: “Transparency” – the traceability of AI systems should be ensured. Fifth requirement: “Diversity, non-discrimination and fairness”: AI systems should consider the whole range of human abilities, skills and requirements, and ensure accessibility.” Sixth: “Societal and environmental well-being”: using the new systems to foster “positive social change and enhance sustainability and ecological responsibility.”  Finally: responsibility also understood as “accountability”: “mechanisms should be put in place to ensure responsibility and accountability for AI systems and their outcomes.”

The European approach. The EU Commissioner for Digital Economy Mariya Gabriel said: “The European approach is human-centric, representing man’s demand.” The Commission underlined: “data and algorithms know no borders.” To this end, the Commission “will strengthen cooperation with like-minded partners such as Japan, Canada or Singapore and continue to play an active role in international discussions and initiatives including the G7 and G20.” A new pilot phase is set to begin next June, with the involvement of Member Countries, research institutes, companies from other countries and international organisations. “Robots cannot be given a soul and perhaps not even a brain – one of the 52 members of  the High-Level Expert Group appointed by the Commission explained in Brussels – but we certainly cannot let robots strip human soul or steal jobs without finding a valid alternative.”

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