Artificial Intelligence may “turn against us”, warns Vestager

“PFor the enormous potential of AI to be unleashed, we have to be able to trust it,” said Vestager, speaking at a panel at the Code technology conference in Los Angeles.

The European commissioner is in the United States for the first bilateral talks between the European Union and the US at the Council on Trade and Technology (TTI), which will take place on Wednesday, September 29, in Pittsburgh.

“The idea is to have a high-level forum where we can discuss things related to commerce and technology and possibly find an alignment,” he described.

“One of the things I want is for us to find an alignment regarding Artificial Intelligence,” said Margrethe Vestager.

The commissioner said there have been “too many cases” of biases that bias AI algorithms and use cases in which there is discrimination against women and people belonging to minorities.

“I think we have to move forward in democracies to change that, because if not, Artificial Intelligence will turn against us,” warned Vestager.

While considering that it is not too late to take action, the commissioner noted that time is running out, mainly because AI now has a wide variety of applications that impact people’s lives.

“We see different uses of Artificial Intelligence, uses that we would think go against the foundations of democracy — where the starting point is the integrity and dignity of the individual,” said Vestager.

The commissioner also spoke of the results of the General Data Protection Regulation (RGPD), which has been in force in the EU since 2018.

“The great success of the RGPD is that privacy is now a trend,” said Vestager, noting that “we would still be in the dark about the digital rights of citizens” if the regulation had not been implemented.

Still, she said there is work to be done to make it easier for small businesses to apply and make privacy the norm for large companies, giving consumers digital assistance so they don’t have to keep answering questions or choosing boxes in websites.

“We need privacy legislation,” said Vestager, at a time when there has been a shift in the United States and there is now room to pass proposals to that effect.

The commissioner also said that it is “a given” that regulators have to take control measures over the big companies in the technology industry, making the rules clearer and fairer.

“There has been an effective change in public opinion”, considered Vestager, noting that the conditionings of the covid-19 pandemic led people to realize that, in order to work and give their children access to online classes, they have to put themselves in the hands of big companies .

“Democracy is so fragile,” he said. “My fear is that citizens feel alienated, out of control and not knowing how to gain it,” he added.

For Margrethe Vestager, the empowerment of citizens “is the essence of a society that works well”.

The commissioner said she doesn’t use Google or Amazon and that there are other interesting companies available. “Convenience kills curiosity,” he said, despite acknowledging the benefits that come with big companies.

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