By Supantha Mukherjee and Foo Yun Chee
STOCKHOLM/BRUSSELS - EU lawmakers hope to agree on draft artificial intelligence rules next month, with the aim of clinching a deal with EU countries by the end of the year, one of the legislators steering the AI Act said.
The European Commission proposed the AI rules in 2021 in an attempt to foster innovation and set a global standard for a technology, used in everything from self-driving cars and chatbots to automated factories, currently led by China and the United States.
"We are still in good time to fulfil the overall target and calendar that we assumed in the very beginning, which is to wrap it up during this mandate," Dragos Tudorache, member of the European Parliament and co-rapporteur of the EU AI Act, told Reuters.
"It took slightly longer than I initially thought," he said. "This text has seen a level of complexity that is even higher than the typical Brussels complex machinery."
The proposed legislation has drawn criticism from lawmakers and consumer groups for not fully addressing risks from AI systems, but the companies involved have warned that stricter rules could stifle innovation.
Intense debate over how AI should be governed led several experts to predict that the draft legislation might hit a bottleneck and get delayed.
"There are a few loose ends for all the political families. I told them in the last meeting that you know you have success in a compromise when everyone is equally unhappy," he said. "Some people will say this is optimistic... I am hoping it will happen."
One of the areas of contention is the definition of "General Purpose AI", which some believe should be considered as high risk while others point to the risks posed by popular chatbot ChatGPT as an area that needs more regulatory scrutiny.
"During this year alone, we are going to see some exponential leaps forward not only for ChatGPT but for a lot of other general purpose machines," he said, adding that the lawmakers were trying to write some basic principles on what makes general purpose such a distinct type of AI.
ChatGPT can generate articles, essays, jokes and even poetry in response to prompts. OpenAI, a private company backed by Microsoft Corp, made it available to the public for free in November.
EU industry chief Thierry Breton has said new proposed artificial intelligence rules will aim to tackle concerns about the risks around ChatGPT.
Critics of regulatory over-reach however said such a move could lead to increased costs and more compliance pressure for companies, throttling innovation.
"I think if that will be the effect of this Act, then we will be severely missing our objective. And we haven't done our jobs if that's what's going to happen," Tudorache said.