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The Ethics of Artificial Intelligence | New EU Communication

April 18 2019

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is increasingly becoming a presence in our lives, benefitting sectors such as healthcare, agriculture, public administration and transportation. It has the potential to transform the world for the better. However, the use of AI across our society also raises new ethical questions. In order to address these, the European Commission have published a new communication on “Building Trust in Human-Centric Artificial Intelligence”. In this article we take a look at the ethical guidelines put forward by the EU.

AI enables machines to “learn” and to take and implement decisions without human intervention. A functionality, which will soon become the standard in many sectors, including the health sector. An algorithm’s ability to make the “right” decisions is dependent on access to big data. Potential risks related to this could be; Incomplete data, which would make the data unreliable, and cyber-attacks, which could interfere with the data. Ethical issues, such as bias inherent in the data or algorithm can also lead to unintended harm and must be prevented.  

Ethical guidelines for AI

In response to these potential challenges, the European Commission’s communication argues that AI technology should be developed in a way that puts people at its centre, and adhere to ethical principles, ensuring that the implementation avoids unintended harm. The EU proposes a set of guidelines drafted by the AI high-level expert group. The guidelines takes basis in three overall components, deemed necessary to achieve “trustworthy AI”; 1. It should comply with the law, 2. It should fulfil ethical principles, and 3. It should be robust.

The seven key requirements in the guidelines are:

  1. Human agency and oversight
  2. Technical robustness and safety
  3. Privacy and data governance
  4. Transparency
  5. Diversity, non-discrimination and fairness
  6. Societal and environmental well-being
  7. Accountability  

The EU emphasises that the ethical dimensions of AI should not be taken lightly, and that the guidelines should be an integral part of AI development. Some of the next steps from the EU will be to launch a set of networks of AI research excellence centres through Horizon 2020, setting up networks of digital innovation hubs focussing on AI, as well as developing and implementing a model for data sharing and making best use of common data spaces, with the healthcare sector as one of the focus areas.

EU’s investment in AI

By 2025, the economic impact of AI will reach between €6.5 and €12 trillion annually (source). At the moment, Europe is lacking behind when it comes to investment in AI compared to for example Asia and North America (source). The EU is planning to address this, by investing 1 billion Euro annually in the upcoming Horizon Europe and Digital Europe programmes. The aim is to facilitate and enhance cooperation on AI across the Union to boost its competitiveness and ensure trust based on EU values. Overall, the EU proposes an annual investment of €20 billion of combined public and private investments in AI. 

ttopstart’s take on AI in health

At ttopstart, we see AI as a key element in the future of healthcare. Emerging technologies such as big data and Artificial Intelligence provide meaningful impact across the entire health continuum (from wellbeing towards treatment and back), and will enable diagnostics and personalised medicine. Furthermore, it has the potential to increase the efficiency of the healthcare system e.g. by reducing the amount of human errors. We will be publishing a whitepaper on How Artificial Intelligence will disrupt healthcare - Insights in public-private partnerships, deals and investments in Europe, sign up for our newsletter below, to make sure you receive the latest updates and insight from us.   

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