The European Commission’s new president has called for the EU to draw up new legislation to govern the use of artificial intelligence within 100 days of taking office, as part of a co-ordinated approach on the "human and ethical" implications of the technology.
Christian Democratic Union politician Ursula von der Leyen, who succeeds Jean-Claude Juncker on December 1, has also vowed to look at how big data can create wealth for societies and businesses and to prioritise investment in AI from EU funds as well as through public-private partnerships. The Commission has already pledged to increase public and private investment in AI to €20 billion (£17 billion) a year.
The pledge underlines the German politician’s focus on technology, which has been a key element of her campaign, along with a "European Green Deal".
In a speech to the European Parliament, she said: "We must have mastery and ownership of key technologies in Europe. These include artificial intelligence, quantum computing, blockchain and critical chip technologies.
“To do this, to close the gaps that exist now, we must act together. Let us pool our resources, our money, our research capacity, our knowledge. And let us put this into practice.”
"With GDPR, we set the pattern for the world. We have to do the same with artificial intelligence. Because in Europe we start with the human being. It is not about damming up the flow of data."
The new legislation is likely to be overseen by competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who is due to become the EU’s first executive vice-president for digital policy, also managing competition regulation.
In her new twin role, Vestager has been briefed with overseeing digital policy, improving cyber security, managing data laws, regulating competition, capitalising on the rise of AI and protecting the EU’s technological sovereignty.
However, even Vestager might have her work cut out to implement the AI legislation within Von der Leyen’s timescale; GDPR took over seven years to implement.