European Union approves world’s leading comprehensive AI law

14/03/2024
Photo by Steve Johnson

THE European Union has approved the world’s first widespread framework for regulating the risks of artificial intelligence.

The AI sector has seen a rapid expansion, driving huge benefits in profit and productivity, but concerns have been raised about bias, privacy, and broader threats.

The AI Act operates by categorising AI products based on their level of risk and adjusting scrutiny accordingly. The leaders behind the law aimed to make the technology more “human-centric”.

By enforcing the AI Act, the EU places its position as a leader in addressing the potential dangers of AI.

The idea of the law is to regulate AI based on its potential to cause harm, meaning the higher the risk, the stricter the rules. The act creates provisions to tackle the risk of generative AI tools such as ChatGPT.

China announced the introduced of a patchwork of AI laws. In October 2023, the US announced an executive order requiring AI developers to share data with the government. But the EU has now gone further.

Enza Iannopollo, principle analyst at Forrester said “”The adoption of the AI Act marks the beginning of a new AI era and its importance cannot be overstated”, leaving every other region, including the UK to “play catch up”.

While Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt has previously called for “guard-rails” on AI regulation, the UK is not planning legislation along the lines of the AI Act.

Sridhar Iyengar, Managing Director at Zoho Europe, said: “AI has increasingly become a core tool in business operations, driving efficiencies across tasks such as forecasting, sentiment analysis and data analysis. However, given the rapid evolution and widespread adoption of AI over the past 18 months, especially, guardrails to protect businesses and promote the safe and trustworthy use of AI through the new European AI law is welcome.”

“The EU’s framework to mitigate AI risks, coupled with robust business policies to further protect themselves and customers, will allow organisations to have greater agility to react to market trends and better serve customers, all while maintaining a high level of trust. The new law also strengthens the EU’s position as a global AI hub, building on important work such as the AI Safety Summit in the UK and placing European businesses at the forefront of global innovation.”

John Kirk, Deputy CEO AT ITG commented: “AI presents itself as an invaluable asset for businesses working alongside talented people who have the skills to leverage its complete range of capabilities. Seeing experts collaborate to ensure the regulation of AI is key to tackling cautions and fears around the technology and enhancing confidence for its widespread adoption.”

“Safe development of AI creates benefits across all sectors, and with confidence, the creative industries will be able to elevate global campaigns, working hand-in-hand with this innovative technology.”

Elizabeth Anderson, CEO of Digital Poverty Alliance commented: “The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) is changing many sectors, offering new possibilities to make tasks easier and more efficient. However, this progress also risks increasing the digital divide due to the ever-widening skills gap, which is already a profound problem in the UK. This divide is likely to grow as AI becomes more common, affecting people differently based on their income, education, where they live, and age. This situation calls for greater policy intention around areas such as digital exclusion, requiring efforts from governments, businesses, educators, and community groups to ensure developments in AI don’t come at the expense of those who are digitally excluded and are being left behind.

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