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Single-minded thinking needed to face singularity
The EU steps in to kick-start a meaningful discussion on legislative direction of AI
On the 12th January 2017, the Legal Affairs Committee of the EU Commission passed a report that announced the need for EU wide rules on AI and robots. For decades the development of artificial intelligence (AI) had been stymied by the delay in the actual technology to catch-up with the theory and the science-fiction. But this decade has seen us reach the tipping point - the technology can start to deliver on the theory – the worry has become that the law would be the delay to the development of AI. Whilst ambiguity and lack of clarity can often generate opportunity – typically larger enterprises view uncertainty and see fear and risk – and such fear and risk causes hesitancy in uptake.
Keen to remove the uncertainty both UK and EU legislators have both been active in the last 6 months in setting out plans to bring legal certainty to the areas challenged by AI – with different rates of progress:
- UK: In October 2016, the Commons Select Committee for Science and Technology reported on “Robotics and artificial intelligence”. The Committee called for a Commission on Artificial Intelligence to be established at the Alan Turing Institute to examine the social, ethical and legal implications of recent and potential developments in AI and also looked to the Government to ensure that education and training systems were optimised to better skill the future workforce.
- EU: On the 12th January 2017, the Legal Affairs Committee of the EU Commission (with a vote of 17-2 in favour) passed a report that announced the need for EU wide rules on AI and robots. The report marked an interesting step forward for AI within Europe as it gave some recommendations as to what the legislation of AI might look like. These include:
- ‘personhood’: consistent with the conclusion that Kemp Little has been making for over 2 years – for example see our seminar on AI in February 2016 - the report noted that a legal status, perhaps akin to that granted to corporates, should be created at some point to help deal with issues of liability and ownership;
- Agency: The creation of a European agency for robotics and AI;
- Registration: A system of registration of the most advanced ‘smart autonomous robots’;
- Code: An advisory code of conduct for robotics engineers aimed at guiding the ethical design, production and use of robots;
- Insurance: A new mandatory insurance scheme for companies to cover damage caused by their robots; and
- ‘Driverless Vehicles’: The report notes that self-driving cars are “in most urgent need of European and global rules…Fragmented regulatory approaches would hinder implementation and jeopardise European competitiveness”.
KL Comment: Whilst it is good to see that there was general recognition that the UK was falling behind in creating a legislative framework for AI – at the moment the UK based activity revolves around the push to greater thinking, rather than any guidance or conclusive thoughts. The EU report starts to ‘flesh out’ how the legislators might approach the status of AI and the laws for development. This feels like the first time a major legislative body has done so for AI at this level of granularity. Keen ‘techies’ will note that the fundamental principles of Isaac Asimov’s ‘Laws of Robotics’ – first articulated in 1943 – are referred to and form a basis of the proposed rules. This reliance on 74 year old rules is either indicative of the prescient and visionary work of Asimov or shows how far we still have to go in our thinking in this area. It is perhaps too soon to tell which…