EESC member Catelijne Muller champions human-in-command approach to AI at Lisbon web summit

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What if algorithms were soon deciding whether someone could have a loan, a mortgage, a health insurance policy, a job – or even a heart transplant? Wouldn't you want to make sure that the data its decisions are based on is safe, complete, bias-free and hack-proof?

While the hugely different forecasts about future job losses show that we are still in the dark as to what AI has in store for workers, shouldn't we all sit around the table while there is still time and think about how best to ensure that it makes work more enjoyable for workers as well as profitable for businesses?

Is giving legal personality to robots a route we should take? Should robots be liable for any fault they might commit or harm they might cause, or should their maker/programmer be liable instead?

These are some of the questions that Catelijne Muller, EESC rapporteur on Artificial Intelligence, raised with her audience at the 2017 Lisbon Web Summit on 5-8 November, where she was invited to speak along with the likes of theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, former US Vice-President Al Gore and European Commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

The event – dubbed "Davos for geeks" – brought together 53 056 CEOs, founders, start-ups, investors and political leaders driving change globally, along with over 2 000 leading media attendees. Together, they discussed answers to the questions posed by the tech revolution.

Ms Muller zoomed in on the political, social and legal challenges of AI as seen by civil society, making the case for a human-in-command approach. Her keynote speech can be viewed on the event's Facebook page.