Press Humane artificial intelligence

Opinion Articles | 07-09-2020 in Parliament Magazine

Maria da Graça Carvalho explains Parliament's new Special Committee on Artificial Intelligence will assist in the creation of a harmonised legal and ethical framework for AI.

The term “Artificial Intelligence (AI)” has been around since the 1950’s, although its implementation, after the initial euphoria, has been somewhat erratic. In recent years, however, it saw an exponential progress in its technological deployment and its implications are influencing every aspect of our society and are promising breakthrough changes in many economic sectors. This also increased the debate in European Institutions about whether or not Artificial Intelligence will require a reinforced legislation framework.

Today, AI is constantly present in the EU agenda and a number of publications, guidelines and political statements are addressing its several dimensions. This growing political attention led to the creation, in July, of a Special Committee on Artificial intelligence also in the European Parliament. I am very proud to be one of its full members.

The committee will not deal with specific legislative acts, but its goal will be to assist in the creation of a harmonised legal and ethical framework that will enable us to address the many ethical, social and economic implications of AI, while making sure that we will not be hindering innovation, technological development and European competitiveness in the process.

This implies finding the right balance between the boundaries that have to be determined upfront, the many different incentives needed to boost our industrial AI capacity and the ethical aspects of AI, always ensuring the adequate involvement of all stakeholders, from lawmakers to the industry and the citizens.

We all recognize the limitless potential of AI, from health to wealth, but we have also been made aware of how it can be used with ill intentions, under certain circumstances, threatening our privacy, our freedom of choice, and even the quality of our democracies.

Ethics is the cornerstone of AI’s future. We need to focus on the human dimension, so that AI will always be used at the service of our citizens, and not vice versa. In order to achieve that, there are certain steps that need to be taken. The first one will be to make sure that everyone has a basic understanding of AI and its different uses. Moreover, that a growing number of our citizens will become skilled in it.

Programmes for the Education and upskilling of citizens will be society’s first line of defence against the abusive use of AI. Knowledge is power! At the same time, this transformation will have inevitable and disruptive impacts on the labour market, but this road will certainly lead us to new opportunities. Training and skills development are key in this process.

A particular attention must be given to the engagement of women in AI and related technologies. For cultural reasons, women have been less involved with technologies in general and, although we are starting to see signs of change, a lot remains to be done to eliminate the gender gap. I have been doing a lot of work on this subject, in the form of reports, opinions and written questions, at both IMCO, ITRE and FEMM committees. My belief is that achieving this goal will be important not just for women, but for society in general. The full potential of women’s skills, knowledge and qualifications in the digital, AI and ICT fields will contribute to boost the European economy. In addition, AI needs the skills of both men and women in order to be as humane as possible.

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