Artificial intelligence
Google says advances in artificial intelligence that can create realistic-seeming video or audio prompted changes to its political advertisement policies. Wikimedia Commons

The environment we combat at the end of 2023 is increasingly uncertain amidst geo-political tensions and economic fragility, but fresh approaches and ideas born of technology and innovation continue to emerge, constructed to both enrich and enhance the way we live and potentially help respond to the challenges we face.

A number of these technologies look set to dominate 2024 and drive new legal developments in artificial intelligence (AI) regulation.

AI technological development – How far will it go?

As we venture into 2024, the dynamics of AI regulation are poised to undergo significant shifts, with a spotlight on the metaverse and its integration into various aspects of our lives.

The continuous advancement of AI technology across sectors raises questions about its societal impact, both beneficial and detrimental. While the metaverse captures attention, uncertainties linger about its practical operation and the potential implications for privacy.

The primary challenge in the coming year will revolve around finding a delicate equilibrium between fostering the deployment of new technologies and safeguarding against misuse, especially for the most vulnerable individuals.

Despite various international initiatives addressing these challenges, the prevailing scenario suggests the emergence of incremental legislation, potentially commencing with the EU's AI Act.

The European Commission's initiatives, including the EU AI Act and the new AI Liability Directive, are key players in shaping the regulatory landscape.

Extensive discussions and debates surround the classification of 'high-risk' AI systems and the limitations of AI in biometric recognition systems. The complexity deepens as considerations extend to data protection laws grappling with technologies capable of analysing emotions and delving into assessing human behaviour.

Calls for strong regulation of 'deep tech' grow ever louder

In the legislative realm, the European Union is expected to witness an acceleration in the digital and data space. Developments such as the European Data Strategy, Data Act and Data Governance Act underscore a comprehensive approach to regulating not just personal data but also fostering access to and sharing of both personal and non-personal data. The push for data spaces, starting with the European Health Data Space, reflects a commitment to enhancing healthcare quality and citizens' rights concerning health data.

Ethical challenges remain central to policymakers

It comes without great surprise, that policymakers in 2024 are faced with the imperative to prioritise and integrate robust ethical considerations into regulatory frameworks. The significance of AI ethics cannot be overstated, as it serves as the moral compass guiding the responsible development and deployment of artificial intelligence. Policymakers recognise that ethical guidelines are essential not only for safeguarding individual rights and privacy but also for fostering public trust in AI technologies.

Lawmakers acknowledge how embedding AI ethics is crucial for ensuring the equitable and fair use of AI across diverse applications. Ethical considerations become a linchpin in addressing societal concerns related to bias, discrimination and the potential misuse of AI.

Striking a balance between innovation and ethical standards is not just a moral obligation but a strategic necessity to prevent unintended consequences that could erode public confidence and hinder the broader societal benefits of AI.

In 2024, forward-thinking policymakers are expected to proactively engage with AI ethics, collaborating with experts, industry stakeholders and the public to craft regulations that reflect a nuanced understanding of the ethical challenges posed by AI technologies. By embracing a proactive approach to AI ethics, policymakers can contribute to a regulatory environment that not only nurtures innovation but also upholds the values and principles essential for a responsible AI-driven future.

AI innovation and data privacy – can this equilibrium be balanced?

A paramount challenge for policymakers lies in striking a delicate equilibrium between fostering innovation and safeguarding data privacy. As AI technologies burgeon across industries, the need to harness their potential for societal advancement must coexist harmoniously with the imperative to shield individual privacy rights.

Policymakers are poised to grapple with the complexities of creating a regulatory framework that nurtures AI innovation without compromising the fundamental right to privacy.

Balancing the scales involves threading the needle between enabling data-driven advancements and implementing robust measures to protect sensitive information from unauthorised use or exploitation. The challenge lies in crafting regulations that not only permit the responsible use of data for AI development but also establish clear boundaries that prevent privacy infringements.

In 2024, policymakers are expected to navigate this intricate landscape with agility, leveraging evolving technologies to fortify data privacy mechanisms. Proactive measures such as stringent data protection laws, transparent AI algorithms and ethical guidelines will be pivotal in achieving the elusive equilibrium between AI innovation and data privacy, ensuring that the transformative power of AI aligns with the ethical principles that underpin a just and privacy-respecting society.

'Industry agnosticism levels the playing field'

Market participants are starting to acknowledge how industry agnosticism embedded in AI regulation acts as a great equaliser on the technological playing field. This approach ensures that regulatory measures are not skewed toward favouring specific industries but instead establish a level playing field for all sectors leveraging artificial intelligence, particularly the EU AI Act.

The industry-agnostic stance in AI regulation reflects a commitment to fostering fair competition, preventing monopolistic practices and encouraging innovation across diverse domains. Policymakers recognise that AI's transformative potential extends across various industries, from healthcare to finance, and the regulatory framework must adapt to accommodate this wide-ranging impact.

In this sense, the industry-agnostic nature of AI regulation is anticipated to prevent undue concentration of power in specific sectors, fostering an environment where startups and established players alike can compete based on merit and innovation.

This approach not only stimulates healthy competition but also ensures that the benefits of AI advancements are distributed more broadly, contributing to economic growth and technological progress across a spectrum of industries. As the regulatory environment evolves, this agnosticism serves as a cornerstone in promoting a balanced, competitive and inclusive AI landscape in the years to come.

A digital agenda for a digitised world

Embracing the digital era in 2024 mandates the formulation of a comprehensive digital agenda within the ambit of AI regulation. As societies become increasingly interconnected and reliant on advanced technologies, policymakers are recognising the necessity of crafting regulatory frameworks that align with the intricacies of a digital world.

A digital agenda in AI regulation serves as a roadmap, outlining strategic objectives to harness the transformative power of artificial intelligence while mitigating potential risks.

This digital agenda encompasses fostering innovation, enhancing digital literacy and establishing adaptive regulatory mechanisms that can swiftly respond to the evolving AI landscape.

Policymakers are expected to prioritise the integration of digital ethics, cybersecurity and data governance into regulatory frameworks, ensuring that the digital realm operates on principles of transparency, accountability and inclusivity.

In 2024, the emphasis on a digital agenda signifies a proactive approach toward governing the digital frontier, enabling economies and societies to harness the full potential of AI responsibly.

It reflects a commitment to creating an ecosystem where technological progress aligns with societal values, privacy is safeguarded and the benefits of AI are equitably distributed across diverse sectors of the digital landscape.