Blog post

AI Regulation is on the Horizon – Part 1

The path to ethical AI leads through an ever-changing landscape of government policy.
Are you ready for the changes ahead? 

Past is Prologue 

Despite the many benefits that computing technology has brought our modern, day-to-day lives, its risks and inequities have threatened to derail what should be a stunning history of innovation. Instead, we have a growing techlash on our hands as the general public begins to question—if not outright reject—the services and motives of large tech platforms and social media. 

As a tentpole of modern tech, artificial intelligence brings with it great promises of scalability in automation and complex decision making, but also concerns over its impacts on privacy, autonomy, society, speech, the economy, and democracy. As the tech industry progresses, how will it prevent alienating both the people that it endeavors to serve, and in the case of AI and data, ultimately rely on? 

Thankfully, we’re not alone in that endeavor. Enter the European Union and the United States government, both of which are debating and crafting policy which will fundamentally reshape AI. While we’ve always taken it as a given that AI will need a lot of human help to be the equitable and fair “ethical AI” that practitioners champion, we have until recently left the responsibility of implementation solely up to industry.  

This is not necessarily a bad thing as industry, alongside academia, has helped to get the ethical AI ball rolling. However, without a unified framework, and perhaps most importantly, a consistent set of “AI ground rules,” the field lacks cohesive goals and incentives by which to guide development and use. As such, government policy will assist industry by providing guidelines for industry to base their AI policies and development upon. 

Currently, the European Union is the trailblazer in the tech regulation space. Beginning with 2018’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the EU first tackled data privacy on online platforms. To be compliant with the new rules—thus enabling continued operations in the EU – websites and internet-based services rapidly adopted the EU’s new policies to ensure that users were informed of the commercial use of their personal and browsing data and given the option to accept or reject that use—as evidenced by the cookie warnings on most websites today.  

With the industry-wide success of implementing the GDPR, the EU is looking to follow up with similar proposals for online marketplaces (the Digital Markets Act or DMA), online services (the Digital Services Act or DSA), and most recently, AI (the AI Act or AIA). 

Insofar as AI is concerned, these proposed rules have overlapping implications. What are they and how will they shape AI and AI-powered businesses going forward? Check back soon as explores the European Commission’s proposed rules and how tech businesses can best navigate them in part II of our series on AI regulation. 


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