The potential positive economic effects of artificial intelligence (AI) have been well-documented, with several high-profile studies highlighting its impact on areas such as workforce productivity and wealth creation. At the same time, widespread adoption of AI technologies has contributed to increased scrutiny and a sharper focus on AI’s potentially harmful implications.

Regulatory Trends

Listed below are the key regulatory trends impacting the AI theme, as identified by GlobalData.

Regulatory divergence

In 2020, the US and Europe have taken steps to regulate AI, but there are notable differences in approach. Europe appears more optimistic about the benefits of regulation, while the US has warned of the dangers of overregulation. China continues to follow a government-first approach, although it did release a list of AI guidelines in mid-2019, which are similar to ethical frameworks laid out by Western governments and companies.

China has been widely criticised for using AI technology to monitor citizens. In May 2020, Tencent rolled out an AI-based credit scoring system to determine people’s “trust” value, and the Chinese government installed surveillance cameras directly outside people’s homes to monitor the quarantine imposed following the outbreak of Covid-19. Whether the US’ tech industry-led efforts, China’s government-first approach, or Europe’s privacy and regulation-driven approach is the best way forward remains to be seen.

The European Commission (EC) white paper on AI

In February 2020, the EC published its initial proposal for a regulatory framework for AI and opened a debate with stakeholders. The paper is considered the first pan-national attempt to regulate AI. It received a mixed reaction, with some calling it a good first step while others attacked its ambiguity and perceived lack of vision.

Both Google and Microsoft supported the EC’s proportionate, risk-based approach, the goal of building a framework for AI innovation, and the need to help businesses develop the necessary AI skills. Addressing social inequalities more thoroughly, differentiating types of harm, and leaving space for positive uses of AI have all been highlighted as areas for improvement.

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US leadership in AI

US regulatory engagement with AI was kick-started in 2019 when the White House issued an executive order titled “Accelerating America’s Leadership in Artificial Intelligence”. A memorandum on federal agencies’ regulatory approaches to AI was released at the beginning of 2020. When it comes to AI the US government has traditionally adopted a hands-off approach, encouraging self-regulation.

The government’s position is one of minimal regulation and maximum encouragement of AI growth and innovation. Regulators were told they should “avoid regulatory or non-regulatory actions that needlessly hamper AI innovation and growth.”

This is an edited extract from the Artificial Intelligence, 2020 Update – Thematic Research report produced by GlobalData Thematic Research.