European Commission's new president pledges action on AI

Ursula von der Leyen calls for GDPR-style legislation on artificial intelligence

The European Commission's incoming president has called for the European Union to draw up rules to regulate AI during her first 100 days in charge. 

Ursula von der Leyen and her commission were coronated in the European Parliament on Wednesday, winning 461 MEP votes with 157 against. 

She promised to put forward legislation for a coordinated European approach on the "human and ethical" implications of AI as part of her new agenda. 

Von der Leyen also pledged to look at how big data can create wealth for societies and businesses, and the prioritisation of investment in AI through both the Multiannual Financial Framework and the increased use of public-private partnerships. 

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The pledge underlines the German politician's focus on technology, which has been a key element of her campaign along with a "European Green Deal". 

"We must have mastery and ownership of key technologies in Europe," she said in a speech to the European Parliament. "These include quantum computing, artificial intelligence, blockchain and critical chip technologies.

"With the General Data Protection Regulation, we set the pattern for the world. We have to do the same with artificial intelligence. Because in Europe we start with the human being. It is not about damming up the flow of data."

However, designing effective regulation is challenging, according to John Buyers, head of AI and ML at Osborne Clarke, who said the GDPR was an "uneasy bedfellow" with AI and that it generates significant compliance issues.

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"The challenges with AI - specifically deep learning - are its breadth of application across every walk of life, and the fact that it is not always transparent or predictable," he said. 

"Beyond high-level ethical principles, one-size-fits-all regulation sounds attractive but the complexity of different sectors will be difficult, if not impossible, to boil down into a single overarching law."

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