Embracing the promise and perils of generative AI: European lawmakers call for global convergence

July 2023
By Maximilian Powell

In the rapidly evolving realm of Artificial Intelligence, generative AI systems have emerged as a groundbreaking technology with the potential to revolutionize various industries. While these AI systems hold immense promise, their growing popularity has also raised significant concerns among lawmakers worldwide, particularly within the European Parliament. On Thursday, 13 July, a plenary debate convened in Strasbourg to address the Global Convergence on Generative AI and the pressing need for a regulatory framework that can strike a delicate balance between harnessing its potential and safeguarding against potential harms.

Generative AI systems, exemplified by ChatGPT and its counterparts, have the capacity to produce sophisticated text, images, and videos based on user prompts, pushing the boundaries of what AI can achieve. Their abilities have opened up new possibilities for consumers, businesses, and industries alike, but they have also triggered serious concerns about misinformation, discrimination, manipulation, and potential abuse. 

The European Commission proposed the AI Act in April 2021 to establish harmonized rules for AI across the EU. However, the proposal struggled to anticipate the full potential and risks of generative AI, especially considering how these foundation models can be customized for various applications, each carrying unique risk characteristics. In response to the proposal, the European Parliament adopted its position on the AI rulebook with an overwhelming majority on Wednesday (14 June) and is seeking to introduce mandatory labelling for AI-generated content and compel the disclosure of training data covered by copyright. 

These concerns were further highlighted at last week’s plenary debate, with Vice-President of the Commission for Values and Transparency, Věra Jourová, advocating for transparency provisions in the AI Act to inform users about chatbot interactions and deepfake encounters. Additionally, she and other MEPs emphasized the strength of the “Brussels effect,” where the EU’s regulatory approach has inspired countries beyond its borders, further highlighting the need for global convergence on generative AI. As the EU positions itself as a global frontrunner in AI regulation, European lawmakers have urged for a cautious, smart, and humble approach to align the regulatory framework with democratic values while fostering innovation and fair competition.

Despite the rapidly changing environment, one thing remains clear, generative AI stands at the crossroads of boundless opportunities and significant risks. While Europe’s strides in AI regulation and governance position it as a global leader, collaboration and global convergence are seen as essential for tackling the challenges posed by generative AI. In this context, the evolving AI Act has the potential to shape the future of AI regulation, but it requires precision and adaptability to effectively address the challenges posed by foundation models while fostering innovation in the EU’s AI ecosystem.