Objective: to get ahead of China. The European Union and the United States announced on Wednesday 31 May a draft joint "code of conduct" on artificial intelligence (AI) to be applied voluntarily for companies in the sector. An initiative taken in particular to prevent Beijing from giving the lead to regulate an area in full explosion.
From policymakers to technology designers themselves, a global consensus is emerging on the need to regulate – more or less freely – a technology with revolutionary effects but high risks of slippage.
After a high-level meeting in northern Sweden, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Westerners felt the "ferocious urgency" to act, due to the emergence of technology, symbolized by revolutionary tools such as the ChatGPT chatbot.
Join "the widest circle possible"
The code of conduct announced on Wednesday "would be open to all like-minded countries," Blinken told a joint press conference with Brussels heavyweights.
The vice-president of the European Commission in charge of Competition, Margrethe Vestager, known for her arm wrestling with the American giants of the Net, indicated that a preliminary version would be presented "in the coming weeks".
"We think it's really important for citizens to be able to see that democracies are acting," Vestager said alongside Blinken. The idea is to arrive "very, very soon" at a final proposal, hoping to rally "the widest circle possible," she said, citing "our friends in Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, India."
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Among other things, Americans and Europeans fear that Chinese standards will be imposed if the West does not unite.
The European Union is preparing a comprehensive and mandatory legal framework that would apply to AI in a few years – at the earliest by the end of 2025 – but the code of conduct designed with Washington will be voluntary, Vestager said.
A comprehensive EU legal framework in a few years
The world has discovered with amazement in recent months the capabilities of this maturing technology, with its machines and software capable of learning at high speed to improve their performance.
The sector is dominated by American giants such as Microsoft – the main shareholder of OpenAI, the firm that operates ChatGPT –, Meta and Google. But the ecosystem is evolving very quickly, especially with open source platforms able to compete or even take the technological lead very quickly.
The Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), an industry lobby that includes Amazon, Apple, Meta, Google and Twitter, welcomed "increased and cutting-edge transatlantic engagement, especially as the EU pursues its ambitious digital regulatory agenda that will shape the market for years to come."
The European Union wants to be the first in the world to have a complete and mandatory legal framework to limit the excesses of artificial intelligence, but its entry into force, led in particular by Commissioner Thierry Breton, will take a few years. Brussels, with the support of giants like Google, is pushing for voluntary rules.
China also has plans for regulation, including a "safety inspection" of artificial intelligence tools.
On the American side, despite many discussions, no imperative project is currently on the table.
"Great opportunities but also risks"
In the presence of ChatGPT founder and Open AI boss Sam Altman, the issue of AI was one of the main topics of the Trade and Technology Council (CTC) meeting in Lulea.
Collaborations on 6G, the sixth generation of mobile telecommunications, a rare technological field where Europeans dominate, have also been recorded.
The body was created in 2021 between the 27 and Washington to turn the page on the trade quarrels of the Trump years.
The EU and the US "share the common view that artificial intelligence technologies present great opportunities but also pose risks to our societies," the two major powers said in a final statement.
As an echo, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen delivered a speech to Parliament on Wednesday morning partly written by ChatGPT, to highlight its performance but also the democratic risks. "Even if he hasn't always hit the nail on the head, both on the details of the government's work programme and on punctuation (...), what (ChatGPT) is capable of is both fascinating and terrifying," she told Danish MPs.
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