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Artificial Intelligence Act

In a groundbreaking move, the European Union (EU) has inked a pivotal agreement on the regulation of artificial intelligence (AI), a step hailed as historic in shaping the trajectory of responsible innovation. The recently adopted Artificial Intelligence Act signifies a paradigm shift, prioritizing the safe and dependable development of AI, while concurrently cultivating an environment that encourages responsible innovation and the formulation of public policies driving investment in AI endeavors.

Authored by prominent figures such as Mara Gómez Martínez, Head of Corporate Regulation, Richard Benjamins, Chief Responsible AI Officer at Telefónica, and Paloma Villa Mateos, Head of Digital Public Policy, the AI Act is a testament to collaborative efforts toward creating a regulatory framework that not only fosters innovation but also safeguards fundamental rights, democracy, the rule of law, and environmental sustainability.

Artificial Intelligence

Regulating the Uncharted: The Artificial Intelligence Act’s Core Tenets

The AI Act adopts a risk-based approach, tailoring its obligations based on the level of risk associated with the AI system. Stricter obligations are imposed on high-risk systems, with certain use cases being outright prohibited. For these high-risk systems, termed as such within the law, “minimum requirements” must be met before market entry and during commercialization. Voluntary measures, however, apply to other AI systems not classified as high risk.

The Act draws a distinction in the value chain, outlining responsibilities for AI system suppliers, importers/distributors, and system users. Notably, the most stringent obligations fall upon AI providers, placing a heightened responsibility on their shoulders.

Of particular significance is the inclusion of Generative AI (GPAI), such as general-purpose AI systems like GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer). The regulation of these advanced models has sparked intense debate, ultimately leading to a compromise that emphasizes transparency and cooperation obligations on GPAI providers. The aim is to equip users with sufficient information to comply with the regulatory requirements.

Generative AI models with high impact capabilities, or those deemed to have equivalent capabilities by the European Office of AI, fall under the purview of the regulation. Providers are mandated to maintain technical documentation, adhere to copyright laws, publish training content summaries, and cooperate with authorities.

Navigating the Regulatory Landscape: Prohibited Uses and Exemptions

The Act addresses contentious issues such as prohibited uses, explicitly excluding emotion recognition in work and education, and predicting individual crimes. However, exceptions have been crafted for specific situations, such as aiding in crime victim identification.

Penalties for non-compliance have been specified, with fines ranging from 1.5% to 7% of total revenues or fixed amounts, depending on the nature of the violation. Special considerations are made for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs).

Certain domains, including national security, military applications, and non-professional AI use, are excluded from the Act and governed by distinct regulations.

Impact on Innovation: Striking the Balance of Artificial Intelligence

The regulation has triggered debates regarding potential over-regulation that could impede technological innovation, particularly in the realm of generative AI. Critics argue that the absence of “Big Tech” in Europe puts local companies at a competitive disadvantage compared to the United States, where self-regulation prevails.

Contrarily, proponents assert that AI regulation does not inherently stifle innovation. Regulatory sandboxes, real-world testing, and open sourcing are seen as mechanisms that can facilitate innovation. The regulation, they argue, provides a clear standard and governance model, ensuring legal certainty, a crucial factor for business operations.

Ultimately, the focus should not be on finding a precarious balance between innovation and regulation but on embracing responsible innovation by design. The AI Act mandates actors in high-risk AI systems to assess potential negative impacts beforehand, emphasizing prevention or mitigation before significant investments are made. This proactive approach stands in contrast to the traditional “break and fix” model, aligning innovation with ethical considerations. As the EU charts its course in the AI landscape, the pursuit of responsible innovation remains at the forefront, steering towards an innovative and ethical future.

Reference; Martínez, M. G., Benjamins, R., & Mateos, P. V. (2023, December 15). Artificial Intelligence Act: An innovative and ethical future. Telefónica.


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