The US wants Europe to relax its AI regulations

This is an issue.

Jacob Bergdahl
Jan 14 · 5 min read

Underregulation of AI has led to sexism and racism, along with privacy-invading policies that allowed companies and governments to harvest user data. Despite this, the US White House is urging its nationwide lawmakers and its European allies to chill out with its regulations. Much like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’s infamously annoying fairy likes to tell the game’s protagonist to“hello, hey, listen,” so too is the White House urging its European allies to focus on their “common values”.

Here’s a first quote from a statement released by the White House:

“Europe and our allies should avoid heavy handed innovation-killing models, and instead consider a similar regulatory approach. The best way to counter authoritarian uses of AI is to make sure America and our international partners remain the global hubs of innovation, shaping the evolution of technology in a manner consistent with our common values.”

Let’s go through this quote bit by bit.

With the first sentence, the White House is urging its allies not to overregulate AI, arguing that overregulation will kill innovation. This is true. Overregulation is a sure way to kill innovation. Yet it is a strange comment to make in a time when ethical and responsible AI is on top of the mind of every person with the slightest of AI know-how. Of all the things to worry about in 2020, overregulation is the issue?

Look, I help clients implement AI solutions. Companies can completely reinvent their business model with AI. Their entire value chain can be streamlined. AI can both decrease costs and increase revenue. Early adopters have much to gain. This is great. This is also terrifying, because when your competitors are getting ahead with AI, and your company lacks the expertise to keep up, guess what happens? You rush to catch up. You rush to stay relevant. And it’s so, so, so easy to accidentally implement a discriminatory AI. Even Amazon, one of the world’s AI champions, accidentally made a sexist AI.

Ethical AI is crucial. Ethical and responsible AI are some of the key topics of the European AI Alliance today. It cannot be stressed enough. Even here on Medium, an anonymous Amazon employee argued that the harm that their own company’s AI system can cause can be difficult to undo.

And the White House is afraid of overregulation.

Photo by Llanydd Lloyd.

Well, in the next bit of the quote, the White House argues that avoiding overregulation of AI is a countermeasure for authoritarian uses of AI (that’s code for China, by the way), which in turn will ensure that the technology evolves in a manner consistent with our common values. Common values, it says. Hmm. The EU has GDPR, while the US has nothing of the sort. The EU has been strongly questioning the American social media giants' usage of user data, while the US has been quite lax. The US police have a history of falsifying data while targeting minorities, the EU at large tries not to. But I guess by common values they are referring to the overarching notion of human rights, which China is violating through their mass surveillance? As if the world has already forgotten the 2013 scandal in which it was revealed that the US had been tracking and spying on EU citizens? What are these “common values” even supposed to mean?

Oh, but wait, there’s more.

Have another White House quote, from the same statement, on the house:

“I think the examples in the U.S. today at state and local levels are examples of overregulation, which you want to avoid on the national level. So when particular states and localities make decisions like banning facial recognition across the board, you end up in tricky situations where civil servants may be breaking the law when they try to unlock their government-issued phone.”

Do you know what they are referring to?

California.

The state of California at large has completely banned the usage of AI facial recognition in body cameras, while some cities have even banned the technology altogether, including San Francisco.

Here’s the thing about California. They know this technology better than anyone. California is the biggest tech center in the world. In fact, there are only two tech metropolises in the world — one is on the American west coast, the other on the Chinese east coast. This is where you will find 18 of the 20 biggest tech companies. Like our good pal Navi the fairy likes to say, “listen,” if the people who know technology better than anyone is issuing a ban, don’t you think it’s time to listen?

But of course the White House is fighting AI regulations, hell, they came into power thanks to lax regulations which allowed them to harvest data from social media, which in turn allowed them to make 220 million personality profiles for Americans, which then allowed them to target American citizens in the world’s largest AI campaign, which finally allowed them to win the presidency.

Believe it or not, but I am actually a strongly progressive person who is very passionate about innovations. I believe that experimenting with new technologies, trialing solutions and exploring new domains is what drives humanity forward. And I am extremely passionate about artificial intelligence. I have created guides for creating business value with AI. I believe that AI is the biggest thing to happen to humanity since the industrial revolution and that it will reshape our lives for the better. I think AI is a wonderful thing that companies should try to utilize in as many ways as possible.

But even I know that there are lines. Lines that have been crossed many times already. Discrimination through AI is real. Very real. Very, very real.

Here’s my suggestion instead.

Let’s not protect our supposed common values by avoiding overregulation. Let’s avoid underregulation.

P.S. Don’t worry America, you are doing pretty darn well in terms of AI innovations.

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Jacob Bergdahl

Written by

Digital rockstar, artificial intelligence aficionado, and wanna-be backpacker. Connect with me on https://www.linkedin.com/in/jacobbergdahl/.

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +565K people. Follow to join our community.

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