This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Read our privacy policy

Everyone needs to know what the digital transition entails because it’s going to change everything.

Don’t turn AI into a Frankenstein monster, says this EU lawmaker

Iban Garcia del Blanco, Member of the European Parliament

Gavin Allen: In the European Parliament, you’re on the Legal Affairs Committee, which advises EU policymakers on the legislative implications of AI and other issues. Will stricter regulation of AI help address some of the fears around this technology?
Iban Garcia del Blanco: Regulation is always behind reality. It's impossible for it to keep pace with the AI revolution. 

But we have principles. We try to create regulation that can adapt to new realities. We will certainly need to update our regulation in some key respects. The European Union’s Artificial Intelligence Act was never intended to fix all the problems. But it tries to establish a general framework that could be useful in the future.

One of the challenges we face is ensuring digital literacy. Everyone needs to know what the digital transition entails because it's going to change everything in our daily lives. As a society, we need to make important decisions about the speed of the changes and the limits of the changes we will allow. You don't have to be an expert, but you should at least understand generally what this transition will involve. 

Gavin Allen: And how do we strike a balance to ensure that we regulate properly – guarding against problems that could arise without crushing the innovative spirit that lies at the heart of AI?
Iban Garcia del Blanco: We are quite aware that we need to encourage innovation. Our hope is that regulations will create legal certainty for industry players. We actually see regulation more as an opportunity for innovators than as a risk. I think the problem of Europe lagging behind in the digital transition is a problem of investment and making common efforts inside the European Union. It’s not a problem of regulation. 

Gavin Allen: So what's the role of companies like Huawei or other big tech companies within this regulatory or standard-setting environment? 
Iban Garcia del Blanco: I think it is important that we have an exchange of views with these big companies. In order to avoid overregulation, we must make companies aware that they need to take certain important principles into account. This exchange of views gives them the opportunity to argue that some regulations could be worse than the reality itself. We need to establish some kind of balance between private and public actors. 

Gavin Allen: And presumably also a contribution to education and digital literacy?
Iban Garcia del Blanco: We are trying to encourage big companies to be part of this digital literacy. Doing that requires that big companies get on board. Trying to do it through public institutions alone will not be enough. 

Gavin Allen: I’ve heard it said that managing AI will require us to be better humans. What do you think of that? 
Iban Garcia del Blanco: I think we have an opportunity to be better. For instance, we talk about the need to avoid bias in algorithms. Bias has existed in society for centuries. It’s a real problem. 

Now, we are going to take the opportunity to expunge this kind of bias from our tech platforms. To do that, yes, we as human beings will try to be better. 

It's important to give this message to common people because sometimes this artificial intelligence transition is seen like the Frankenstein monster being chased by the villagers. But yes, we’ll see not just a big leap in productivity, but also a more balanced society. I’m quite convinced. 

Gavin Allen: That's very optimistic. But if we do get it wrong, what is at stake? Are we releasing Frankenstein into the village? 
Iban Garcia del Blanco: We are trying to be cautious and to have regulation because sometimes people don't understand that we have to regulate this field. I don’t understand why we haven’t already regulated certain aspects of AI. Some of the key players at the big tech companies are making us aware that we need it. 

So I think that there's some kind of consensus between the tech sector and public institutions that we need tools that will make better societies. 

Gavin Allen: So it's a bit slow but not too late. The village is safe from Frankenstein. 
Iban Garcia del Blanco: For sure. 

Contact us!