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The EU recently proposed a new law to regulate artificial intelligence (AI). It reminds me of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, a transnational law that has helped shape data privacy rules across the globe.  

The new AI law shares that spirit. But the legislation will not be enough. We need more co-operation and discussion to balance the protection and innovation of a technology trend that will reshape our world in unimaginable ways. Still, the legislation is a welcome and significant step in the right direction. 

I am normally a big advocate of deregulation, preferring freedom and scope for exploration to stoke innovation. But this new generation of AI is unlike anything we’ve seen before.

AI has been around for a while: Siri on your phone, Alexa, Google Assistant. Yet the next-generation AI is something completely different. It will revolutionise everything: the way we work, the way we educate, and the way the whole world functions.

Unfortunately, it can also be dangerous if used for the wrong purposes. Right now the talk is about online criminals, and the dubious categorisation or profiling of people. But eventually AI could autonomously conduct compliance regulation, manage vital infrastructure and even run weapons systems — things that could break our society if mismanaged or underestimated.

The potential of this new breed of AI is almost beyond comprehension. Yet I do believe the vast majority of what will come out of this will be good, enhancing and improving humanity to a level that was never before possible.

History will remember the new generation of AI as one of our most significant breakthroughs. Calls to slow down or halt AI are not the best reactions. We need policy and regulation to manage AI’s potential for significant risks and danger.

Is the European AI law enough? Not by a long shot. There are several issues. It’s difficult to enforce, for example. The law defines four tiers of AI risk: unacceptable, high, limited and minimal. Unacceptable AI should not be developed, though nations, groups and malicious people could ignore such restrictions.

Regulating and auditing AI projects will be challenging, especially in the high-risk category. Also, categorising systems can be arbitrary, changes to existing systems can be done easily, and it won’t be possible to keep track of any changes or modifications of systems that will change the system’s classification. 

But that does not make the law moot. Quite the opposite, because it encourages a serious conversation. We desperately need legislation to regulate AI, and I hope other governments are paying attention. Europe’s legislative authority is a role model, and its views get the rest of the world to sit upright.

It has opened the door to a larger conversation that should include the UN or World Forum and produce a multilateral agreement, not unlike international treaties. The European legislation sets the tone to follow that path.

I hope government leaders recognise that we need more urgency for a united response, such as a global watchdog with multinational support for investigations and prosecutions. We cannot leave this new generation of AI to become a free-for-all that could harm humanity.

Seeking international consensus must balance protection and innovation, emphasising the latter because attempts to slow AI progress will discourage collaboration. The cornerstone of any agreements or treaties should always protect the innovation and progression of these amazing technologies. 

Transnational laws are the start. But the potential of new AI and the unpredictability of where it will take us is beyond the capacity of national or even transnational laws. The EU’s AI Act is significant, but only the first step. We cannot assume that regulating AI is unenforceable. We need to find that balance between priorities.

AI can make the world a better place. Collaboration and regulation will help ensure this better world belongs to all of us as we embark on this exciting new chapter of humanity.

• Ferreira is CEO of Osidon.

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