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How to harness AI to benefit our environment and health

How to harness AI to benefit our environment and health

Software can help us prevent cancer by using data from millions upon millions of patients. Are algorithms beneficial or detrimental to our environment? After long discussions, some of these questions are being addressed by the European Parliament through the Artificial Intelligence Act (AI Act).

We are now past the debate on the importance and benefits of AI. This technology isn’t something we consider for the future anymore but is instead a reality that has an impact on our everyday lives and in every economic sector. The number of innovative AI applications is growing at a rapid pace, from biotechnology and healthcare, climate change adaptation, smart farming, sustainable transport, and critical infrastructure.
Yet, AI technology has advanced at the speed of light for decades while legislation has remained static. That is, up until now. 

We must give AI space to grow and contribute to our societies.

It is an honor to be appointed ENVI rapporteur for the AI Act. It is a tremendous responsibility, as it is the first person to offer an opinion on the matter. We are working hard on horizontal legislation that will provide high levels of legal certainty, protect our societies, and respect our European values. This is the only way that citizens and businesses can fully trust the technology they use. 

We must give AI the space and time it needs to reach its full potential, and contribute to our societies. Let’s face the ugly truth: the EU is lagging behind in the world’s tech race. It’s fundamental that we smooth the way for SMEs and entrepreneurs to innovate, through regulatory sandboxes and a reduction of bureaucracy. 

AI must be controlled. “Innovation through regulation” is the principle guiding me while drafting the ENVI opinion on the AI Act.

To provide AI with a holistic approach, we must establish common rules. It is a huge opportunity for all sectors of society. This is a way for the EU to be a leader in AI and to set global standards, as it has done with data protection under the GDPR. 

We can become world leaders within niche sectors like neurorights. While terms like “brain data” and “neurochips” may sound like something taken from a sci-fi movie, they are gradually becoming our reality. The tech giants have been making announcements about their innovations in this field, such as the ability decode thoughts in brain activity, process them in computers, and monitor neuroactivity through brain microchips. We can’t be caught unaware. The EU legislation must be part of the game and establish the rules for all players. 

But if we regard AI as an ally – and not a foe – where can it get us regarding the EU’s overall priorities? AI can play a pivotal role in fighting climate change and achieving the Green Deal goals. According to PwC UK it has the potential for reducing global greenhouse emissions by four percent by 2030.

But if we regard AI as an ally – and not a foe – where can it get us regarding the EU’s overall priorities? AI can be pivotal to the fight against climate change as well as in achieving the Green Deal goals.

It will help us reach climate neutrality by monitoring our environment, designing smarter and more sustainable cities, reducing our energy consumption, improving our waste management, and developing more efficient transportation. Although AI algorithms can have negative effects on the environment due to their energy consumption, they can still reduce 10 times more greenhouse gases emissions than their footprint. 

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I am determined to ensure that AI is only used for our benefit. This is why I demand that the protection of our environment be considered a high-risk element in our legislation.

Healthcare is another of the EU’s priorities that will be transformed by AI. The opportunities to save millions of lives are unparalleled. From combating pandemics to enhancing research and diagnosis, from developing new medical devices and treatments to increasing the public authorities’ decision-making capabilities in matters of public health – the benefits are countless. 

There are times when human lives are at stake. We need to be vigilant. I advocate for the deployment of AI under strict conditions in order to ensure safety, prevent discrimination, biases, establish liability rules, and protect personal data.
Legislation must drive innovation in the same manner that AI will. This future must be for the benefit and good of all. 


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