The year 2018 in the tech world ended with the European Commission launching its coordinated plan on artificial intelligence. The document delineates the EU’s strategy in developing AI with a particular focus on ethics. The idea behind it is to turn this technology into an asset for European citizens, who should be able to reap its full benefits and trust in it.
AI technology fuels many discussions on every level but also in many industries and fields of research. Ethics are a prominent consideration since this disruptive technology will likely affect many aspects of human lives, from the way medical care is provided to driving cars. The European Union has enlarged its investment in the digital economy and AI now more than ever with the new Digital Europe. The programme has a proposed budget of EUR 9.2 billion, with over 27% exclusively allocated to support the development of artificial intelligence. Adopting the ethical approach, the EU has put together a High Level Group on AI composed of experts from academia, industry and civil society to develop guidelines ensuring the adherence of fundamental rights, principles and values. On 18 December 2018, the expert group published the first Draft Ethics guidelines.
The guidelines are meant for AI to be developed as a human-centric (Chapter I) and trustworthy (Chapter II) tool. These goals should be secured through assessments and evaluations to ensure improved outcomes (Chapter III).
How will this affect cities? The way urban environments are governed will be radically transformed. The Internet of Things and AI will play a central part in the future ‘smart cities’ which will be able to monitor data and control traffic flows, traffic lights, air quality conditions and safety. In other words, local governments, with the help of AI, will be able to better manage their use of energy, health and security. With AI affecting many aspects of citizens’ lives, steps towards a carefully thought-out ethical approach to the advances of technologies is necessary.