French president Emmanuel Macron did not mince words when speaking to technology magazine Wired about the upcoming disruption by artificial intelligence (AI).

SwissCognitiveThe technological revolution that comes with AI is, he said, “in fact a political revolution”. “In the US, it is entirely driven by the private sector, large corporations, and some startups dealing with them. All the choices they will make are private choices that deal with collective values,” warned Macron.

“On the other side, Chinese players collect a lot of data driven by a government whose principles and values are not ours,” he pointed out.

Macron showed in the thought-provoking interview he knew that if you want to shape how AI will affect us, you have to be involved at the design stage, and set the rules. “If we want to defend our way to deal with privacy, our collective preference for individual freedom versus technological progress, integrity of human beings and human DNA, if you want to manage your own choice of society, your choice of civilisation, you have to be able to be an acting part of this AI revolution,” the French leader said, adding he wanted to “frame the discussion at a global scale”.

A similar message is due to come out of Brussels on Wednesday (25 April), when the European Commission presents its strategy paper on artificial intelligence – namely, that the EU should take the lead to shape the ethics of AI. While there is no universal definition of AI, it generally refers to systems that can make (semi-)autonomous decisions based on analysing their environment or large data sets.

Autonomous cars are an obvious example, but many applications that have become mundane – like film suggestions by an on-demand platform or online translation services – were once seen as AI. Draft versions of the commission paper – a ‘communication’ in EU jargon – listed three main goals: “boosting Europe’s technology and industrial capacity in AI and its uptake”; addressing “new ethical and legal issues”; and tackling “socio-economic challenges in the labour markets”.

Two draft versions, one of them published by news website Politico, said that there was a need to embed (European) “values, democratic principles, legal norms and .. respect of fundamental rights” in the design of AI systems.

The more recent draft said that the commission would set up a European AI Alliance that will be tasked to write a Charter on AI Ethics by the beginning of next year. The paper said “the EU can leverage its credibility in defending ethical values and fundamental rights and position itself as a leader in the international reflection on AI”. Such a charter or committee has also been suggested by other recent reports relating to AI. […]

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