AI Act voted-adopted by European Parliament

AI Act voted

#AIAct passed! 

The European Parliament just voted in favour with an overwhelming majority. The final version in all EU languages is available under Amendment 808, which is the agreed text.

That was one — quite quick — step for the Parliament, and one giant leap for Europe.

Next steps: Following the Council’s agreement, the AI Act will proceed to be published in the Official Journal. 

A Leap Forward 

The pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation: the transition from the extractive economy to the new economic space—the digital economy happened like a leap. In this new space, the algorithms that now shape our economy and society are often developed with few legal and regulatory restrictions or commonly held sustainability and ethical standards. Consequently, ensuring that technologies align with our shared values and existing legal and regulatory frameworks is crucial.  

The EU appears to go further in this arduous feat by striving to create a socially responsible and environmentally sustainable tech, fostering not only a trustworthy market, but also, and, indeed, especially, a whole safe and transparent socio-economic and bio-cultural ecosystem

Namely the latest updated text of the EU AI Act features a revised definition of AI systems aligned with the OECD definition and the risk-based approach, in assessing the lawfulness of AI system development and usage based on the level of risk to fundamental rights. According to the EU Parliament, the Act aims to ensure that fundamental rights, together with democracy, the rule of law and environmental sustainability are protected from high-risk AI, while boosting innovation and making Europe a leader in the field.  

For high-impact general-purpose AI (GPAI) models with systemic risk, obligations are more stringent. If these models meet specific criteria, they will be required to, among other things, conduct model evaluations, assess and mitigate systemic risks, report serious incidents to the Commission, ensure cybersecurity measures, and report on their energy efficiency

AI and Environmental Sustainability 

Unsustainable development of the digital economy in general contributes to apparent environmental harms, such as CO2 emissions which are nowadays roughly equivalent to those of the global aviation industry 

In the AI sector, research shows that, for instance, training Chat GPT can directly evaporate 700,000 litres of clean freshwater, although this information has been largely undisclosed. More significantly, the increasing global demand for AI could lead to a staggering 4.2 to 6.6 billion cubic meters of water withdrawal by 2027. To compare, this means surpassing the annual water usage of countries like Denmark

On top of outstanding water footprint, by 2027, AI servers could gulp down a staggering 134 terawatt hours per year, rivalling the annual energy consumption of entire countries like Sweden, the Netherlands, or Argentina

To address the environmental sustainability issues, under the AI Act, the LLMs such as ChatGPT fall within the models that could be held accountable for, among others, environmental unsustainability. Namely, they will have to mitigate systemic environmental risks and report on their energy efficiency

To achieve truly sustainable AI, it is essential to holistically address not only the carbon footprint and/or the water footprint, but also, and, indeed, especially, the systemic environmental and broader sustainability risks. By considering all aspects of sustainability, we can strive to ensure that AI development and deployment minimize their environmental impact across multiple dimensions. This comprehensive approach acknowledges the interconnectedness of various environmental resources and the need to manage them sustainably. 

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