In the Czech Republic, the subject of artificial intelligence (AI) is widely discussed. Experts, politicians and other stakeholders recognize that the research, development and use of this technology will be crucial in the near future.
The Czechs reject strict European regulations. According to them, too many limitations could irreversibly hamper the development of research on artificial intelligence.
This is the opinion, among others, of Tomás Mikolov – a scientist dealing with artificial intelligence, who acquired his professional experience with the American digital giants: Google, Microsoft or Facebook. He recently decided to return to the Czech Republic and is currently working at the Technical University in Prague.
“Artificial intelligence is a group of computer algorithms that solve complex tasks such as machine translation, image recognition, speech, etc. Basically, they are mainly statistical methods applied to big data,” explained the expert in an interview with EURACTIV.cz
“The crucial question is whether it makes sense to try to regulate at European level the use of statistics in computer programs. The push to regulate AI research is often driven by fantastic visions of the future that have nothing to do with the current level of technology,” adds Mikolov.
“In my opinion, instead of discussing the introduction of a law to slow down the development of modern technologies, it would be better to open a discussion about supporting such research and the widespread use of AI. Thanks to this, we would be able to compete with the United States and China,” explains the expert.
The less regulation the better?
This point of view is shared by the representatives of the Confederation of Industry of the Czech Republic. According to Ondrej Ferdus from the director of the department of digital economy and technologies, setting the rules for the development of AI is important, but on the other hand, careless regulation can have far-reaching consequences.
“Europe is in a very good position to become a world leader in AI. However, the imposition of excessive legal restrictions can block capacity development. Therefore, we agree with the approach of the authorities of the Czech Republic,” argues the EURACTIV.cz interlocutor.
Representatives of the Czech Republic, in an unofficial document published last fall, stressed that the main focus should be on self-regulation.
“In the field of the introduction of the law regulating the development of AI, the most important issue for us is the subject of social security. Only in the case of dangerous apps that, for example, recognize faces, rate citizens or recognize user emotions, is it necessary to set strict limits,” said Jan MicaHead of the Department for the European Digital Agenda at the Chancellery of the Government of the Czech Republic.
Míča stresses that “the Czech Republic supports an approach based on thorough risk assessment and the introduction of regulations only when necessary, so as not to multiply unnecessary obstacles for developers and companies”.
The Czech Republic is also one of 14 countries that asked the European Commission in October to introduce as few regulations as possible in the field of IS development.
Striking a balance between creating new regulations and the rapid development of AI is also crucial for the Confederation of Industry of the Czech Republic. At the beginning of this year. he created an informal group of Central and Eastern European organizations called AI Challengers. One of the results of its work is a common position on the so-called White Paper on AI, published by the European Commission in February this year.
AI is all around us
Like Tomáš Mikolov, others in the industry are also paying attention to society’s unrealistic perceptions about AI.
“I still listen to the science fiction story about how AI could one day destroy humanity. And yet it has affected us for a long time, for example via social media. At the same time, the debate about its uses is not very deep,” the co-founder of the prg.ai project pointed out in an interview with EURACTIV.cz. Pavel Jurus.
The Prg.ai platform is designed to advance AI science, education and commerce. Through it, students, teachers, scientists, lawyers and philosophers can connect with each other and popularize the discussion of future technologies throughout society.
Pavel Juruš is not a fierce opponent of artificial intelligence regulations. “I am for caution because AI carries a number of risks. However, the position of some actors, for whom regulating only means imposing additional obstacles and hampering business activity, is wrong,” he underlines. According to him, a well-established legal framework should support – not hinder – development.
There is no government support
Juruš points out that there are great specialists in the Czech Republic who could focus on AI development, but they lack sufficient support from the government.
“Research institutes can conduct even the best and most innovative research, but if there is no strategic approach to the development and management of science, it will be useless. Unfortunately, it is a problem of general underfunding of science in the Czech Republic, “explains the expert. According to him, the Czech Republic is not able to provide sufficiently attractive conditions for foreign scientists. “Thus, capital foreigners will not be tempted to invest in this industry,” he said.
“Talented people go abroad because of better working conditions,” he says. “The government’s approach to research and development is far from sufficient to make the Czech Republic a European leader in artificial intelligence in the future.”
Ondřej Ferdus insists on the need for more support from the authorities. According to him, the ongoing pandemic shows how important digitization and the use of AI are. At the same time, the expert draws attention to the strength of the private sector and Czech universities.
“We have hundreds of AI research entities in the Czech Republic with a strong academic background.” According to research, 88 percent. of them cover the expenses out of his own pocket. “It is obvious that if companies invest their own resources in development, they realize the importance that artificial intelligence will take in the future,” concludes Ferdus.