President-elect of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen made clear in her recently unveiled policy agenda, that not only will artificial intelligence (AI) be a key component of European digital strategy, but the cornerstone of the European AI plan will be to develop “AI made in Europe” that is more ethical than AI made anywhere else in the world.
What this means is not always clear, since there is no universal consensus on ethics. However, most European policymakers are less concerned about the “what” and more about the “why.” As explained by former Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, Andrus Ansip, “Ethical AI is a win-win proposition that can become a competitive advantage for Europe.” This idea that Europe can become the global leader in AI simply by creating the most ethical AI systems, rather than by competing to build the best-performing ones, has become the conventional wisdom in Brussels, repeated ad nauseum by those tasked with charting a course for Europe’s AI future. But it is a delusion built on three fallacies: that there is a market for AI that is ethical-by-design, that other countries are not interested in AI ethics, and that Europeans have a competitive advantage in producing AI systems that are more ethical than those produced elsewhere.
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Image: European Parliament