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 Full text 
Monday, 11 February 2019 - Strasbourg Revised edition

A comprehensive European industrial policy on artificial intelligence and robotics (short presentation)

  Ashley Fox, Rapporteur. – Mr President, I was pleased to see this report adopted in Committee last month and I thank my shadow rapporteurs for working with me to produce a good result. This report sets out Parliament’s position on artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics.

Members may not be aware that Parliament originally agreed we should do a report on this subject in April. We spent the next six months arguing over who should be the lead committee, so work only started in October. This then left us only four months to write the report and bring it to plenary. That was a shameful waste of time. If there is one lesson I have learned from this process, it is that Parliament should rethink how we deal with these situations. We’ve had to work at great speed, and I’m glad that we’ve been able to get a substantial report through within such a short time frame. I wish to record my thanks to my assistant, Lavan, for his hard work.

My main objective has been to ensure that this is a positive report that signals our willingness to adopt this technology and provide the correct conditions for it to thrive. We are at the beginning of seeing the adoption of AI and it will take many years before we see its full potential and reap the full benefits of it. It can make us more prosperous, healthier and create jobs that currently don’t exist. An example that I have used throughout discussions on this file is that it took the best part of 200 years for humanity to reach the full potential of the steam engine. Along the way there was great resistance and I have no doubt there’ll be opposition to the adoption of AI.

There is, of course, always opposition to change, but let us not stand in the way and be a Parliament of Luddites. In the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE), we agreed on the need for a code of ethics to guide the development of AI. This should encourage the good actors and deter the bad ones. Working under such a code and ensuring transparency will ensure greater acceptance of this technology. We believe that AI should have a human-centred approach. What is meant by this is that the use of AI should augment human capabilities rather than just replace them. It is sometimes forgotten that when AI and human abilities are combined, they are more powerful than when used in isolation. This has been demonstrated particularly well in the medical field.

It is important that we prepare society for the changes ahead through developing education and training. As AI progresses, it will destroy some jobs and create others. We need to ensure that we have a skilled workforce to take advantage of the new opportunities. This will be one of the most important aspects of ensuring competitiveness on a global scale.

We should recognise that most of the investment in this field will come from the private sector, not the state or the EU. Our Member States must work hard to ensure that they are attractive places to invest.

One final point I wish to make is that artificial intelligence does not have borders. It will operate between and across the different jurisdictions of the world. We should therefore approach its governance with a global mindset. We must ensure that the EU and our Member States discuss this at an international level, and as far as possible develop global standards.

I look forward to hearing what colleagues have to say this evening and to a positive vote tomorrow.

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