The dream to create an artificial being that could think and act just like a human was conceived in the myths of ancient Greece and has travelled for more than 2,000 years to the science-fiction literature of modern times. But each passing day the dream of Artificial Intelligence (AI) gets closer to realisation as technology advances from all over the world suggest.
Even though we still lack flying cars, according to the visions of 20th century’s futurists, but we are close to having completely autonomous vehicles that can safely transport people and goods regardless of the weather conditions. AI technologies are quickly integrated into medical procedures, manufacturing, banking, trade, art, and numerous other everyday activities and it is just a matter of time before seeing it expanding further.
When it comes to AI, Europe is at a pole position as it has a strong track record in research and in development. Currently, one out of four industrial robots is made in Europe, so we have an advantage towards our global competitors. We, as Europeans, can further expand our lead doing what we know best – cooperate and address together the challenges that could emerge in the future.
But with no doubt, AI is a great power and great power entails great responsibilities. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen rightly pointed out in her remarks on Shaping Europe’s Digital Future last February that “Artificial Intelligence must serve people and therefore, Artificial Intelligence must always comply with people’s rights”.
We, as policy-makers, are called to strike the right balance and ensure that technological evolution goes hand-in-hand with upholding the rights of people. We are called to ensure that AI is used to benefit all citizens within the European Union. We must also ensure that the disruption caused by the evolution of technology, does not lead to exclusion or enhance inequalities and does not question well-founded values such as the protection of privacy. We want AI and all other technologies to empower people, provide inspiration, and serve the needs of our societies. AI poses the challenge of addressing biases and ensuring that the great achievements of technology benefit everyone regardless of residence, gender, and personal beliefs. Trust must be built for people to use AI in their daily activities and this is where policy-makers are called to work together with engineers and all societal stakeholders and ensure that AI is an inclusive technology of inclusion that will not leave anyone behind.