The much-anticipated artificial Intelligence Act, the world’s first comprehensive regulatory framework designed to govern the development, deployment, and use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems, reached a provisional agreement in December 2023. As the digital landscape continues to evolve at an unprecedented pace, the European Union (EU) has taken a significant step forward in shaping the future of AI. Two specific societal impacts of AI, i.e., its impact on elections and on how we work and learn, will be explored further in this text.
The consolidated text ought to be adopted by the EU Parliament and the Council. It enters into force once it is published in the EU’s Official Journal. There is a 24-month transition period. Prohibitions are effective after six months and the rules for general-purpose AI models enter into force after 12 months. Even though the completion of the first comprehensive AI regulation worldwide marks an important step, challenges associated with regulating AI are ongoing and complex, indicating that the journey is far from being completed.
Impact on Elections
The upcoming wave of elections in 2024 set the stage for a politically charged year. This year, a staggering number of over 40 countries are slated to take place globally, involving a substantial electorate of more than 40% of the world’s population set to cast their ballots in 2024. This includes the U.S., the EU parliament and local election in Germany. Targeted, AI-generated political disinformation will be a major point of concern for these upcoming elections.
An important tool in the EU to fight disinformation online will be the implementation and enforcement of the Digital Services Act (DSA). The DSA provides for severe penalties in the event of a serious breach of the rules - up to six percent of global turnover.
In the Slovakian elections in October 2023, a fake video of the head of the nation's primary pro-European party appeared to criticize local voters, engage in discussions about purchasing votes from the Roma minority, and make inappropriate jokes about child pornography. In the U.S., a pro Ron DeSantis super PAC utilized an AI-generated voice of Donald Trump in a television ad. In the New Hampshire primary, a digitally altered message to sound like President Biden was used to urge residents not to vote during the primary.
AI is not only already in use targeting elections but also poses a significant challenge for individuals to discern between authentic and fabricated content. U.S. adults failed to correctly classify one-third of headlines as either real or fake, according to a YouGov survey of 1516 U.S. adult citizens about how well people distinguish real from fake news headlines.
Impact on the way we work and learn
The advent of AI has ushered in a transformative era, significantly impacting the way we work and learn. AI technologies have streamlined and automated various tasks, enabling increased efficiency and productivity across industries. From data analysis and pattern recognition to routine decision-making processes, AI has proven instrumental in handling repetitive tasks, freeing up human resources for more strategic and creative endeavors. One in eight companies in Germany uses AI, according to the Federal Statistics Office (Nov 2023). Companies primarily use technology for accounting, production, or service processes or management. This is particularly essential in the German economy, where the integration of AI holds the potential to mitigate demographic challenges and alleviate pressures on the job market. According to the German Economic Institute (IW), there was a shortage of around 308,400 workers in the STEM sector in April 2023.
Decisive for the skilled labor situation in Germany will be how AI is dealt with in schools, universities, and education. Educators will become accustomed to employing AI for producing notes, reports, lesson plans, and course summaries while students will start to use AI tools more and more. As per a paper released by the Standing Scientific Commission of the Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs in Germany, education experts affirm that the integration of AI in schools holds significant promise. They acknowledge the substantial potential of AI. Nonetheless, they emphasize the importance of establishing prerequisites and meeting specific conditions to ensure the responsible and ethical utilization of such AI tools in educational settings.
AmCham Germany's Digital Policy Committee released its position paper on AI regulation in January 2024, underscoring the imperative for international collaboration in shaping comprehensive and cohesive guidelines for AI governance. The international dimension of AI cannot be overlooked. In a prior installment of Current Business Matters, we delved into the intricacies of Transatlantic AI-Governance.
In an interconnected world, where businesses operate across borders, balancing how the AI regulations in the EU and the U.S. align with or diverge from global standards becomes paramount. Navigating the complexities of international cooperation, AI-generated misinformation, data sharing, and ensuring a harmonized approach to AI governance will be critical for businesses and the German business location in its entirety.
Author: Raphael Schmieder