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  • Lara-Joyce Käser

The Council of the European Union on artificial intelligence

Facebook just recently turned into Meta – trying to get rid of the bad connotations to its name and ringing in a new dimension of the internet: the Metaverse. Mark Zuckerberg’s vision is to connect the real and virtual world via cross platforming. The marketing video of his Metaverse can remind one of a “Black Mirror” episode – turning a possible dystopia into reality?

This vision may only turn into reality due to artificial intelligence (AI). AI is giving machines the power to perform tasks naturally requiring human intelligence. Thanks to exponential progress in machine learning there seem to be endless opportunities with AI in the future even surpassing the capabilities of the human brain. Experts claim that there is a 50% chance of AI performing human tasks better and with fewer costs by the year 2061 (Ord,2020). Hence, debates about regulating the use and development of AI are rising. The question of whether to regulate AI or not is strongly connected to ethical prospects. Worldwide there are still only limited legal regulations on the topic. Now, the Council of the European Union is about to debate a drafted proposal by the European Commission on the regulation of AI. The proposal tries to enhance the opportunities of AI while controlling the possible negative effects.

AI can be a blessing if it is used in service of human progress. For instance, it can support and relieve the overloaded medical system worldwide analyzing data in order to give a diagnosis. Another possible way of engaging AI is by using care robots. The still ongoing COVID-pandemic showed the importance of care workers who are facing staff shortages due to the hard-working conditions and bad payments. Although in this context, it becomes clear that AI cannot fully replace human interactions for example in the hospitals between nurses and patients are essential and can hardly be replaced by robots. Moreover, relying on technology to prevent misdiagnosis is controversial as AI analyzes data on the basis of human-programmed algorithms which rather look for known patterns than consider individual causations. AI is only as good as its data which can lead to biased results.

The medical field is not the only area where artificial intelligence has the potential to replace human workforces. In the Industrial Revolution innovations like production lines enabled companies to produce more and faster with less human help. This was only the start of economic automatization. Through the use of AI, it will be possible to maintain fully automatic working factories, service jobs like bank clerks or cashiers will become no longer necessary, but is it morally acceptable to replace humans with machines? Do we really want a grocery store without a cashier? Is human interaction compensable? These are the dividing questions we are facing. The answers must be implemented by international governments and associations securing the public sector and functioning of markets while respecting people’s fundamental rights and safety. Especially stakeholders – benefiting from the use of AI – are in favor of a hands-off approach rather than strict regulations. They fear to lose in the international competition due to fewer incentives to research and develop further AI.

Realizing AI plays already a major role in our daily lives mainly through social media is important. The Metaverse is a futuristic design, nevertheless nowadays any social media platform already uses advanced machine learning to collect data on our personal preferences in order to personalize experiences and advertisements. Data protectionists claim that the enormous data gathering through single companies is alarming regarding individual rights and data privacy. In order to control the usage of our data, to secure protection, and to prevent an establishment of social credit systems regulations will be necessary. The upcoming debate will be groundbreaking and should catch all of our attention.

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