AI Laws

EU AI Regulations – An Introduction and Overview

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In May this year (2021) the EU released a draft version of their EU Artificial Intelligence (AI) Regulations. It was released in May to allow all countries to have some time to consider it before having more detailed discussions on refinements towards the end of 2021, with a planned enactment during 2022.

The regulatory proposal aims to provide AI developers, deployers and users with clear requirements and obligations regarding specific uses of AI. One of the primary aims to ensure people can trust AI and to provide a framework for all to ensure the categorization, use and controls on the safe use of AI.

The draft EU AI Regulations consists of 81 papes, including 18 pages of introduction and background materials, 69 Articles and 92 Recitals (Recitals are the introductory statements in a written agreement or deed, generally appearing at the beginning, and similar to the preamble. They set out a précis of the parties’ intentions; what the contract is for, who the parties are and so on). It isn’t an easy read

One of the interesting things about the EU AI Regulations, and this will have the biggest and widest impact, is their definition of Artificial Intelligence.

Artificial Intelligence System or AI system’ means software that is developed with one or more of the approaches and techniques listed in Annex I and can, for a given set of human-defined objectives, generate outputs such as content, predictions, recommendations, or decisions influencing real or virtual environments. Influencing (real or virtual) environments they interact with. AI systems are designed to operate with varying levels of autonomy. An AI system can be used as a component of a product, also when not embedded therein, or on a stand-alone basis and its outputs may serve to partially or fully automate certain activities, including the provision of a service, the management of a process, the making of a decision or the taking of an action

When you examine each part of this definition you will start to see how far reaching this regulation are. Most people assume it only affect the IT or AI industry, but it goes much further than that. It affects nearly all industries. This becomes clearer when you look at the techniques listed in Annex I.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE TECHNIQUES AND APPROACHES  (a) Machine learning approaches, including supervised, unsupervised and reinforcement learning, using a wide variety of methods including deep learning; (b) Logic- and knowledge-based approaches, including knowledge representation, inductive (logic) programming, knowledge bases, inference/deductive engines, (symbolic) reasoning and expert systems; (c) Statistical approaches, Bayesian estimation, search and optimization methods.

It is (c) that will causes the widest application of the regulations. Statistical approaches to making decisions. But part of the problem with this is what do they mean by Statistical approaches. Could adding two number together be considered statistical, or by performing some simple comparison. This part of the definition will need some clarification, and they do say in the regulations, this list may get expanded over time without needing to update the Articles. This needs to be carefully watched and monitored by all.

At a simple level the regulations gives a framework for defining or categorizing AI systems and what controls need to be put in place to support this. This image below is typically used to represent these categories.

The regulations will require companies to invest a lot of time and money into ensure compliance. These will involve training, supports, audits, oversights, assessments, etc not just initially but also on an annual basis, with some reports estimating an annual cost of several tens of thousands of euro per model per year. Again we can expect some clarifications of this, as the costs of compliance may far exceed the use or financial benefit of using the AI.

At the same time there are many other countries who are looking at introducing similar regulations or laws. Many of these are complementary to each other and perhaps there is a degree of watching each each other are doing. This is to ensure there is a common playing field around the globe. This in turn will make it easier for companies to assess the compliance, to reduce their workload and to ensure they are complying with all requirements.

Most countries within the EU are creating their own AI Strategies, to support development and job creation, all within the boundaries set by the EU AI Regulations. Here are details of Ireland’s AI Strategy.

Watch this space to for more posts and details about the EU AI Regulations.