The EU AI Act: A Plea for Proportionality, Agility, and Transatlantic Framework

European Business Leaders Voice Concern Over EU’s AI Act:

Over 150 executives from leading companies have come together to critique the European Union’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) Act. These companies include Carrefour, Danone, Edenred, Capgemini, Schneider Electric, Hettich, Deutsche Telekom, Henkel, Peugeot, Merck, Deutsche Post, Renault, Heineken, Airbus, and Siemens, to name a few. In an open letter sent to the representatives of the European Parliament, Commission, and the European Council on 30th June 2023, they argue that the Act’s stringent guidelines, particularly for generative AI technologies, could threaten Europe’s technological sovereignty and dampen competitive spirit.

  • The letter highlights the importance of AI, comparing its potential impact to the invention of the internet and the breakthrough of silicon chips. It cautions that regions with robust AI models will have a competitive edge and considerably influence both the economy and culture. The authors suggest that Europe cannot afford to be left behind in this development.

Potential Threat to Europe’s Technological Ambitions: 

The AI Act, which received preliminary approval from the European Parliament on 14th June 2023, is still undergoing several phases of approval before it becomes law. Critics express concern that the Act might hinder Europe’s progress towards becoming a major player in the global technology scene. They believe that the Act’s stringent regulations could jeopardize Europe’s technological aspirations, instead of fostering an environment favorable for AI innovation.

Concerns Over Generative AI Regulations:

The Act’s strict rules on generative AI systems, a category of AI models that generate outputs based on large data inputs, have raised significant concerns among these companies. These rules mandate that AI providers register their products, undergo risk assessments, and fulfill transparency requirements, irrespective of their products’ intended applications. Critics assert that these obligations could lead to excessive compliance costs and liability risks, potentially causing AI providers to exit the European market.

Advocating for a Risk-Based Approach:

While acknowledging the complexity of AI and the necessity for appropriate regulation, the stakeholders argue against a rigid, bureaucratic approach. They state that given the limited understanding about the real risks, the business model, or the applications of generative AI, European law should focus on outlining broad principles in a risk-based approach.

The Act’s Impact on Innovative Startups:

The signatories point out that the Act’s regulations could impose an undue burden on young, innovative companies, posing a threat to the current innovation wave in Europe.

They suggest the establishment of a regulatory body composed of AI industry experts to supervise the Act’s application as technology continues to evolve.

Defense from the AI Act’s Champion:

Dragoș Tudorache, a Member of the European Parliament who led the development of the AI Act, has defended the legislation in response to the letter. He maintains that the Act proposes an industry-led process for establishing standards and governance, requiring only transparency.

OpenAI’s Perspective on the AI Act:

In 2022, OpenAI lobbied against a proposed amendment to the AI Act that would have imposed the Act’s most stringent restrictions on all providers of general-purpose AI systems. OpenAI’s CEO, Sam Altman, initially raised concerns about potentially withdrawing from the European market due to compliance challenges. However, he later clarified that OpenAI has no plans to leave.

Amidst the rise of new technologies, industry and policy makers must embrace a shared vision, weaving together their expertise to navigate uncharted territory and shape a collaborative regulatory landscape.

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