The Hong Kong office of the Germany-based Heinrich Böll Stiftung (hbs) and APRU successfully concluded the first in a series of three webinars on regulating artificial intelligence (AI).
Held on May 5 under the theme Risk-based Approach to AI Regulation, the event constituted a valuable Asia-Europe platform for the exchange of insights on the risks that are associated with AI and the appropriate regulatory responses.
The webinar series comes against the backdrop of AI reaching a stage of maturity and extensive application across supply chains, public governance, media and entertainment. While industries and societies are quick in the uptake of AI, governments struggle to develop appropriate regulatory frameworks to prevent immense possible harm resulting from mismanaged AI.
APRU has been pursuing debates in the field of AI policies and ethics since 2016, and APRU in collaboration with UN ESCAP and Google has set up the AI for Social Good network.
“This joint webinar series comes at the perfect time to bring together experts from Europe and leading thinkers from the highly diverse Asia Pacific region.
We are looking to apply what we have learned to actively support the development and implementation of regulatory frameworks and polices that ensure that AI technology is used for the good of society,” said APRU Secretary General Chris Tremewan, emphasizing the importance of collaboration across regional boundaries.
The webinar was moderated by Zora Siebert, Head of Programme, EU Democracy and Digital Policy, Heinrich Böll Stiftung European Union. Siebert pointed out that the European Commission has unveiled its draft AI Act (AIA) in April 2021, accelerating an active shaping process in the European Parliament. Siebert noted that policymakers in the U.S. and the EU have been keen to align on AI policy, with both sides wishing to enhance international cooperation.
Toby Walsh, Scientia Professor of Artificial Intelligence, University of New South Wales, explained that AI can hardly be regulated in a generic way but will require novel regulative approaches instead.
“Since AI is a platform, it is going to be much like electricity that is in all our devices, and there is no generic way to regulate electricity,” Walsh said.
“The EU AI Act will set an important precedent, but it will depend on how it is going to be implemented and on the sorts of expertise the EU is going to have, because the people who are going to be regulated have vast resources,” he added.
Alexandra Geese, Member of the European Parliament for the Greens EFA and coordinator for the Greens EFA in the AI in the Digital Age Special Committee (AIDA), picked up on Walsh’s electricity metaphor, stressing that “we want to be the ones who switch the lights on and off, as opposed to leaving the decisions to the machines.”
Jiro Kokuryo, Professor at the Faculty of Policy Management at Keio University in Japan, provided an alternative perspective from East Asia, explaining that the society and the technologies should be allowed to co-evolve rather than be forced into a static process.
“Nevertheless, Japan aligns completely with the EU in terms of human rights protection, and the EU’s risk-based approach is also agreeable,” Kokuryo said.
The second webinar will be held on May 25 on the topic Explainable AI. The proposals of “explainable AI” and “trustworthy AI” are initiatives to create AI applications that are transparent, interpretable, and explainable to users and operations managers.
The final webinar will be held on June 15 on the topic Protection of Data Rights for Citizens and Users. The webinar will address the challenges for regulators in striking a balance between data rights of citizens, and the rights for enterprises and states to make use of data in AI.
- Listen to the recording here.
- Find out more about the webinar series here.
- Register for the May 25th session here.
Programme Manager, Heinrich Böll Stiftung, Hong Kong, Asia | Global Dialogue
Email: Lucia.Siu [at] hk.boell.org
Senior Director, Policy and Research Programs, APRU
Email: policyprograms [at] apru.org