From an EU perspective, 2014-2019 has been about regulating emerging tech and understanding the fundamental changes happening in our society based on technology and the internet of things.

Charlotte Matthysen
Consultant

The next EU administration will be zooming in on the actual economic and social impact tech has. Ethics of AI, use of data, privacy protection: these will become the main worries of the next EU legislators.

But how do you even measure or consider regulating ever-evolving and ever-changing technologies? At Davos, several panels on tech were circling around this question but no clear answer emerges.

Let’s take AI and algorithms for example: algorithms have already proven to be life-changing, making research faster, daily life safer and consumers get better service. But as humans are flawed, so is the data collected to base the algorithms on and the coders making them. How do you prevent bias in these systems? Think about the fake news reporting, the misinformation on health, things can go wrong very quickly without oversight. And who would be responsible for that oversight, especially on a global scale? Nobody wants an OrwellianMinistry of Truth nor keeping it with companies who are solely responsible to their shareholders. It is a difficult balancing act, especially when you throw algorithms into the mix of emerging markets growing at record speeds.

But this is exactly why the fear of what tech can do should not overtake the opportunities it provides: our quality of life and environment has drastically improved. So what should we be afraid of? Well, during the panel ‘Governing Data in Our Daily Lives’ at Davos, the panellists were asked what keeps them up at night. The answers? Erosion of free will, fear of the unknown and disengagement popped up. All of these fears don’t lie with the technology itself but with the humans that operate and use them. It is about educating the population, including politicians, about what technology can do and how it works. It is about creating a social awareness that AI does not mean humans get to check out. Companies and public sector alike carry the responsibility to inform and educate the users, giving them the ability to make informed decisions about their data and way of life.

How they do this, well, no agreement has been reached on the Swiss mountains in 2019. But it is clear that this issue requires a global solution, as the internet doesn’t have any borders, and so forums like Davos create unique opportunities to have a global and cross-sectoral discussion about how we want to shape our future with AI in it.

Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg