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Euroviews spoke to Jeremy Rolison, Head of EU Policy and European Government Affairs at Microsoft Europe, about many of the burning questions surrounding European and global regulatory cooperation in artificial intelligence and what AI regulation will mean for Europe’s citizens.
The rise of artificial intelligence and its ever-increasing presence in our daily lives has sparked many debates.
Among them, the question of its governance is emerging as one of the most pressing issues of our time, with Brussels at the forefront of the race to regulate AI with its flagship AI Act.
However, regulation does not come without its hurdles, and the decisions are bound to determine the future of both technology and Europe’s citizens.
At this year’s International Summit on Artificial Intelligence, organized by Euronews in Brussels on 8 November, Euroviews I spoke to Jeremy Rollisonhead of EU policy and European government affairs at Microsoft Europe, on many of the issues around European and global regulatory cooperation and what it will mean in practice.
Euroviews: At the 2018 Brussels Tech Forum, you named AI as one of two emerging technologies that will have the biggest impact on people and their relationship with technology. How much more to come?
Jeremy Rollison: At Microsoft, we’ve been working on AI for decades. It’s already built into many of our products and our customers use it every day.
But this year saw AI accelerate more than ever and become mainstream with the emergence of large language models and generative AI. Technology is augmenting human capabilities and changing everything about how we live, work and learn.
We see AI supporting research into new drugs, finding solutions to accelerate the decarbonisation of electricity grids and improving cyber security.
We also see technology as an engine of economic growth by supporting the development of new products and services.
So we really see AI as playing a key role in addressing some of society’s most pressing challenges.
Euroviews: You often have the opportunity to talk to decision makers about the various challenges they face in regulating AI. Could you share with us some of the key takeaways on what can and should be done to ensure forward-looking regulation, particularly in the EU?
Jeremy Rollison: A balance must be found between supporting Europe’s ability to innovate while ensuring that Europeans’ rights and values are protected.
Legislation is needed to strike the right balance. As AI technology continues to advance at pace, continued dialogue between companies, governments, businesses, civil society and academia is important.
AI governance frameworks need to keep pace with technological innovation, and we need diverse voices around the table to make that happen.
This is how we minimize risk and maximize opportunity, enabling people to use technology safely and unlocking benefits for all of society.
At the end of the day, it’s about promoting responsible innovation of a technology that we believe will lead to massive economic growth in Europe and beyond.
Euroviews: There was a lot of talk about preparing for the future. Can we really look that far ahead?
Jeremy Rollison: We must certainly look forward. The EU has ambitious plans — take the Digital Decade goals and the European Green Deal, for example.
AI will play a key role in driving this transformation, including accelerating the deployment of sustainability solutions and developing new ones – faster, cheaper and better.
A great example is Belgian startup BeeOdiversity, which developed an AI-based system used by farmers to measure environmental impact and better protect biodiversity.
What is important is to ensure that frameworks are in place to address potential emerging risks. The pace of innovation is moving so fast, and we need failsafes built into AI systems by design.
We also need frameworks that allow us to respond quickly to emerging challenges, while ensuring that the AI ecosystem can thrive and companies across Europe can adopt the technology at scale.
Euroviews: In the past you have advocated for Data for All, making data available to all, not just a few, be it governments or companies, especially in the context of AI developments. How important is this data access to AI and why?
Jeremy Rollison: Data has a key role to play in the responsible development of AI technology.
The value an organization will get from AI is largely determined by the quality of their data, as well as how well their data is managed. Data feeds the algorithms and allows them to learn and make predictions.
Responsible data policies and practices for both inputs and outputs of AI models and applications enable the use of AI while protecting user privacy, safety and security.
The growth of AI makes access to data and large language models more critical than ever. AI models can perform a wide variety of tasks using natural language, from preparing the first draft of a presentation to writing computer code.
In addition, AI’s ability to process large data sets and provide insights could be critical to progress on key societal challenges, for example accelerating progress on climate action.
AI technologies can be used to analyze energy consumption patterns and optimize the use of renewable energy sources, or assist in the efficient management of natural resources and offer conservation strategies.
Euroviews: What would be the ways to ease the anxieties of legislators, but also of citizens, when they hear the words “free access to data”? What can be done to ensure that their personal data is safe and remains confidential?
Jeremy Rollison: People will only use technologies they trust. We believe that customers’ data is theirs and theirs alone.
Data processed by AI products is also subject to the GDPR, as well as our customers’ data privacy and security commitments, which often go beyond strict EU data privacy laws.
Organizations large and small are deploying AI solutions because they can achieve more at scale, more easily, with the right enterprise levels and responsible AI protections.
Customers can trust that the AI applications they deploy on our platforms meet legal and regulatory requirements for responsible AI and that we keep their data secure.
Our mission is to empower customers to achieve more and empower them to drive their own innovation. Their success is our success.