Rapid Technological Advances Complicate EU Efforts to Implement AI Law

Rapid technological advances in artificial intelligence (AI) technology, such as the ChatGPT generative AI app are complicating European Union efforts to implement landmark AI laws. The European Commission first proposed rules nearly two years ago to protect citizens from the potential dangers of the emerging technology, which have taken the world by storm in recent months, raking in massive investment and record consumer popularity.

The draft needs to be thrashed out between EU countries and EU lawmakers, called a trilogue, before the rules can become law.

Several lawmakers had expected to reach a consensus on the bill last month and proceed to a trilogue in the next few months. But a five hour meeting on Feb. 13 left lawmakers at loggerheads over various facets.

While the industry expects an agreement by the end of the year, there are concerns that the complexity and the lack of progress could delay the legislation to next year, and European elections could see MEPs with an entirely different set of priorities take office.

For the EU to implement regulations on AI is a real challenge, as new systems have been coming in at record pace. Desptie the challenges, some measures remain relevant, including transparency, quality control, and measures to assert their fundamental rights.

Lawmakers are working through the more than 3,000 tabled amendments, covering everything from the creation of a new AI office to the scope of the Act’s rules.

The complexity of the negotiations also stem from the involvement of many different committees.

Legislators have sought to strike a balance between encouraging innovation while protecting citizens’ fundamental rights.

This led to different AI tools being classified according to their perceived risk level: from minimal through to limited, high, and unacceptable. High-risk tools won’t be banned, but will require companies to be highly transparent in their operations.

But these debates have left little room for addressing aggressively expanding generative AI technologies like ChatGPT and Stable Diffusion that have swept across the globe, courting both user fascination and controversy.

By February, ChatGPT, made by Microsoft-backed OpenAI, set a record for the fastest growing user base of any consumer application app in history.

Almost all of the big tech players have stakes in the sector, including Microsoft, Alphabet and Meta.

Both big tech and smaller startups have been concerned that the EU regulations might affect their business and put them at a competitive disadvantage against companies from other continents.

Behind the scenes, Big Tech companies, who have invested billions of dollars in the new technology, have lobbied hard to keep their innovations outside the high-risk clarification that would mean more compliance, more costs and more accountability around their products.

European Parliament lawmakers say the Act will be subject to regular reviews, allowing for updates as and when new issues with AI emerge.

But, with European elections on the horizon in 2024, they are under pressure to deliver something substantial the first time around.

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