Svenja Hahn is a Member of the European Parliament for the FDP and part of the Renew Europe Group. In an interview with eco, she talks about the challenges of regulating artificial intelligence, the goals of the AI Act and her Digital Single Market working group.
What challenges does the EU face in integrating artificial intelligence (AI) even better into our everyday lives? What as yet untapped potential does AI offer?
I often find that the term artificial intelligence is abstract and distant for many people, even though AI is already an everyday part of their lives. For example, in the suggested tracks from their music streaming app or in the development of vaccines. Artificial intelligence is a reality with great potential in many areas of our society and economy. We must put a stop to the types of applications that are, however, a danger to human rights and democracy.
Probably the biggest challenge in regulating AI is regulation itself. Bridges across ideological divides sometimes have to be long, and setting a legal framework for a technology with a potential that is not entirely predictable today is not easy either. Conservatives are spreading their surveillance fantasies, as with biometric monitoring in public spaces. On the other hand, there are repeated efforts from the political left to regulate the applications of AI down to the smallest detail. However, I consider overregulation in harmless applications of AI to be the biggest killer of innovation. As a liberal, I work to ensure that innovation can be fostered through narrow framework laws while protecting our democratic values and civil rights.
The EU Parliament has produced a report on AI in the AIDA Special Committee. What issues do you think were left unresolved or fell short, and how will the report impact work on the AI Act?
In the special committee, the Parliament agreed on fundamental positions on artificial intelligence. And this across the board and independent of the specific framework and competencies given to the standing committees. The final report contains important proposals for the trustworthy and fundamental rights-compliant development and use of AI. The EU is to be strengthened in international competition. I am convinced that we must lead the way as a free democratic Union and not leave the setting of technical standards to authoritarian states. Such fundamental ideas of the special committee should also be incorporated into the AI regulation, which was explicitly not part of the AIDA committee. The aim of the AI Act must be to promote innovation and keep bureaucracy small, especially for startups and SMEs. There are repeated attempts from various political camps to regulate more and more aspects that are already regulated elsewhere. I take a very critical view of this because the AI Act should focus on the specifics of artificial intelligence. This includes seizing opportunities, minimising risks and protecting civil rights.
What are the essential challenges facing your Digital Single Market working group?
Unfortunately, the biggest challenge of this working group was the Covid-19 pandemic. For organisational reasons, there was only one meeting, as the committees in the European Parliament had priority in the allocation of online meeting slots.
That’s why I’m now pleased that Parliament is returning to normal operations, so we can finally make the working group the platform it should be: a forum for the great digital policy discussions that go beyond day-to-day politics. Particularly against the backdrop of the last two years and the various legislative packages in the areas of digitalisation and new technologies, we must use the working group as a platform to discuss with experts and develop strategic ideas to expand the Digital Single Market.