Kratsios Highlights Differences Between U.S. and E.U. Approaches to A.I.

By: Henry Rademacher

On Thursday, February 20, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios was at the Hudson Institute to discuss America’s role in the global technology ecosystem. 

Topics of discussion included: The White House AI Guidelines released in January, recent developments regarding E.U. policy on AI regulation, the budget proposed by the White House last week, and the role technology is playing in tensions between the U.S. and China.

On Wednesday, the E.U. released long awaited details on their plans for AI regulation. Under the proposed policies, the E.U. would classify certain AI technologies as “high risk.” Such technologies would potentially be subject to strict regulation. While the E.U. appears to have backtracked on their rumored plan to ban facial recognition entirely, they would classify a wide range of AI applications as “high risk,” including healthcare, policing, and transportation technologies.

The proposal drew a mixed response, with critics questioning whether or not the proposed model would be conducive to innovation and venture investment. When the E.U. implemented General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) it resulted in historic compliance costs for tech companies, many of whom are still involved in GDPR-related litigation with the E.U.

On Thursday, Kratsios pointed out that the E.U.’s approach to tech regulation is markedly different from the approach that has been pursued by the Trump Administration. In an op-ed for the Washington Post, he expressed concerns that if the E.U. uses a heavy hand to regulate AI, it could benefit China, whose brand of  “digital authoritarianism” is diametrically opposed to Western values.

China has used AI to help create the most sophisticated surveillance state that has ever existed. Chinese citizens are subject to constant surveillance, with ethnic minorities subject to especially egregious human rights violations. China has also used soft power to export authoritarian policies throughout the developing world, especially to Africa

Kratsios and others have argued that the E.U. and U.S. should have more closely aligned regulatory policies on AI in order to preserve Western leadership in emerging technologies. According to Kratsios, the “balkanization” of regulatory frameworks that currently exists creates more questions than answers and opens the door for China to gain ground in the AI race. 

Regarding U.S. AI policy, Kratsios highlighted the need for policies that are “use-based, risk-based, and sector-specific.” He pointed out that the White House AI guidelines released in January prioritize public engagement, arguing that regulatory bodies need to “engender trust between the American public and the technologies we are using.”