Political challenges after the EU’s AI Act

Building the European AI Future

In December 2023, the EU finally reached agreement over the AI Act, celebrated as the legal fundament for a safe and prosperous digital European future. Look past the political accord, however, and central questions are unanswered: from managing the wider societal impact of AI and its military implications to ensuring that the AI Act rules are actually enforced. This event explores the political challenges that emerge—or remain—in AI governance now that an EU framework has been agreed upon.

Negotiations over the AI Act were exceptionally difficult: police use of real-time biometric surveillance proved as divisive as regulatory guardrails for frontier development of AI. Only faced with the threat of talks collapsing altogether could EU governments, parliamentarians and the Commission seal a deal.

As the immediate post-deal celebratory mood ebbs away, the contours of future challenges for AI governance emerge more clearly. Many AI Act provisions remain vague. What room remains—for better or worse—still to push actual implementation of its provisions in different directions? Do the coming, out-of-the-limelight technical negotiations reopen the door for heavy lobbying from tech companies?

At the same time, the EU has championed cross-border coordination of EU rules, either with select partners such as the USA or even globally. With its own take on AI governance settled, has such coordination become a pipe dream? And if so, problematic is an EU going its own way on AI?

And EU legislation leaves crucial issues untouched. Worries persist about the impact of AI on domains like healthcare, education, mental health, inequality, labour markets, and democratic deliberation—a daunting list. Whose task can and should it be to govern and steer these impacts?

About the speakers

Joanna Bryson is Professor of Ethics and Technology in the Centre for Digital Governance at Hertie School in Berlin. Previously, she has been affiliated with the University of Bath, Harvard Psychology, Oxford Anthropology, the Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research, and the Princeton Center for Information Technology Policy. She has coauthored the first national-level AI ethics policy, the UK’s 2011 Principles of Robotics, and contributed to efforts by the OECD, EU, UN, OSCE, Red Cross and Google, among others.

Pegah Maham is Project Director for Artificial Intelligence & Data Science at the Stiftung Neue Verantwortung. As a technologist, her interest lies in the question on how to measure and forecast progress in artificial intelligence, its risks, and how to govern this technology such as through regulation and the development of effective standards. Together with the VDE—the German Association for Electrical, Electronic and Information Technologies—she is currently working on AI trust labels on fairness and robustness.

Daniel Mügge is Professor of Political Arithmetic at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). As leader of the NWO Vici project RegulAite, he investigates EU governance of AI and its embeddedness of global geopolitical and economic competition. At the UvA, he is also co-founder of the research platform and the research priority area AI & Politics. A political economist by training, he has been a visiting researcher at Harvard’s Center for European Studies, the London School of Economics and the Freie Universität Berlin, his alma mater.

Lisa Vermeer is Senior Policy Officer at the Digital Economy Department of the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy. She is working in the AI-team on international AI policies and currently leads the Dutch team that is responsible for the Dutch position on the AI Act in Brussels. Before taking up her current position, she worked for ICNL conducting research on AI policies, as diplomat in the field of human rights on the internet and as advisor for members of the House of Representatives on EU legislation.

Marieke de Goede (moderator) is Dean of the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Amsterdam and Professor of the Politics of Security Cultures. She is also a member of the Dutch Royal Academy of Sciences (KNAW) and an Honorary Professor at Durham University, UK. De Goede’s research focuses on counter-terrorism and security practices in Europe, with a specific attention to the role of financial data. Between 2016 and 2022 she led the research project FOLLOW: Following the Money from Transaction to Trial.

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