Current Affairs
The European Union and Artificial Intelligence

Technology in the digital era has become as important as food and drink, with very rapid changes which are changing the way we communicate, live and work. Today we speak about a new generation of computerised systems to which you speak and tell them what to do, about intelligent equipment which acts like a human being such as driverless cars or computers which translate automatically.

While you are reading this article, whether you know it or not, you are recognising the words joined together in sentences and your mind is processing them to understand the thinking behind them and form a picture or idea from them. You can then retain them or forget, or decide to do something about what you have read or learnt. This is exactly how Artificial Intelligence works.

AI consist of systems which function in an intelligent and independent way, just as the human being does. This is a more advanced step and is not simply a process of machines which do man’s work. It is an issue of equipment which processes, reasons and reacts as it has been programmed to, according to what is happening.

The EU needs to be at the forefront to use this system in the best way possible to find solutions for challenges in the field of health, agriculture, safety and manufacturing.  On the other hand, a balance needs to be found to serve man and the economy and not the other way around.

The work of the EU in this sector, on the one hand recognises the potential of AI and on the other hand finds a balance between the use of data on which these systems are based and the protection of safety and high ethical standards. In December 2018,  the European Commission and the member states agreed on a co-ordinated plan to support the developments which are being made in AI.

The EC is also increasing the investment in the sector by 70% from funds in the current research and innovation programme  Horizon 2020. This means that there will be around €1.5 billion for the years 2018-2020. This investment should increase the initiatives of innovation in AI by the member states and the private sectors in the EU.

For this investment to further succeed, there also needs to be a greater investment in human resources through education and training of skills based on digital complex systems which require adequate skills. It is here that the EU also has plans for action known as the Action Plan for Digital Education. This plan strengthens the efforts of the member states on three pillars: the better use of digital technology when it comes to education, the development of digital skills, and the use of data and awareness of new technologies such as AI, robotics, cloud computing and Blockchain.

In the face of all this we need to better understand that the way forward is not to be passive but to see how we can prepare ourselves for rapid changes which are happening around us. Digital skills are not only necessary but essential for the future, and will be just as fundamental as knowing how to read and write.