After the Brussels Effect, Digital Empires

Long time no seen!

After the confinement I was absorbed by day-to-day work, and let go of writing my bits of knowledge. Here I’m again, to share with you Anu Bradford’s geopolitical view of the Artificial Intelligence state.

Digital Empires - Anu Bradford

Anu Bradford, professor at Columbia Law School, author of “The Brussels Effect”, came to Brussels to present her new book called “Digital Empires”. Javier Espinoza, EU correspondent at the Financial Times moderated her talk at the Microsoft Center Brussels.

In her last book, she states that the 3 major players in the digital economy are the United States, China and the European Union.

The US is strong in the private market, exporting its products and services. China is pursuing tech supremacy but mixed with political objectives like surveillance. It is a digital surveillance State and is exporting the infrastructure developed for their surveillance to other countries (even to some European ones). Last, the EU is the front-runner on regulating the use of digital applications and its data, we want to protect our people and democracy while  fostering tech advance.  EU is thus shaping the future of the digital economy, balancing between both powers through regulation.

Those are the 3 Empires to which she refers in her book.

Nevertheless, the US and China are doing better than the EU. Europe should invest in infrastructure and applications, the basis for regulation are settled, don’t go too far beyond the needs and loose the train, she says. Also, going too deep in regulation, there is a risk of having the market and the applications going different ways from what it’s foreseen: regulations will be out-fitted.

She brings the point that regulating is worth nothing if you don’t know how to implement those rules, or if you cannot enforce them.  We may have a problem of credibility if we cannot legislate nor enforce. Taking time to tackle those related aspects should be a priority.

At this time where many important elections are coming soon, we cannot afford to wait. The new regulations won’t be in action for the first coming elections, and the risk of AI interference is huge. Having AI’s amplifying false information is a risk that can materialize soon. Let’s have AI’s detecting and counter-acting the “dishonest” ones.

Did the EU already lost the battle?

Yes and no she answered. EU is the one dictating the rules, but we should not be content with just regulation. We need to get in the field and compete with infrastructure, products and services.

To achieve this, EU will have to improve its ability to attract talent from other countries, improve access to venture capital and take advantage of data.

Right now, startups begin in EU but to scale they move to the US because here there is not a  robust market to invest : EU is held back by its cultural fear of risk..Once an entrepreneur fails, it’s difficult for him or her to be funded again. That’s why the US are more attractive to innovators.

Asked if she thought GDPR was blocking innovation in Europe, she said she didn’t think so, but democracy had an impact slowing things down. Another drawbacks of the EU is that the single market continues to be incomplete.

Her vision about the positioning of the rest of the world?

  • Australia, South Korea, Canada, Japan…are aligning in regulation with Europe.
  • UK is not joining the EU, but implementing its own regulation.
  • India? Still not sure it will follow the EU.
  • The authoritative countries are clearly aligning with China, they like what they see there.
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