Seizing the AI opportunity in Europe

Now a lot of recent attention on AI has focused on chatbots. But with the amount of computing power devoted to AI doubling every six months, we can expect to see AI turbocharge scientific discovery and drive faster work in areas ranging from sustainability to food security to neglected diseases.

AI is bringing us “science at digital speed.” Note that I said “bringing,” not “will bring”–that future is already here.

Just one example: It used to take a biology graduate student a full doctoral thesis to discover the shape, the folds, of a single protein.

DeepMind’s AlphaFold discovered the shapes of nearly every known protein—a breakthrough that gave us the equivalent of nearly 400 million person years of scientific progress.

That’s like taking every man, woman, and child in Europe, training them to be a biology grad student, and having them do nothing but fold proteins for a full year.

We made those results public, and now more than a million scientific researchers are using them to advance drug discovery and personalized medicine.

Imagine similar advances in nuclear fusion, sustainability, clean water, precision agriculture, and more, and you start to get an idea of just how powerful, how transformative, and how productive this technology will be.

And as productivity increases, so does competitiveness and economic growth.

Let me quantify what I mean by that.

A report commissioned by Google and released this year by Public First found generative AI could increase the size of the EU economy by €1.2 trillion, and save the average worker over 70 hours a year—the equivalent to about two weeks of work. By helping everyone across the EU focus on more productive and creative tasks, AI can accelerate economic growth and in turn help us make progress on social challenges.

Figures like those show that the countries most likely to lead in competitiveness will likely be the ones that are able to deploy AI and innovate with it at scale.

Europe has a once in a generation chance to seize that potential opportunity. But it’s not going to happen on its own. We need new legal and policy frameworks—frameworks that have passed competitiveness checks, that nurture AI talent here in Europe, and that promote responsible AI innovation, access to new markets, and new investment.

Technological leadership requires a balance between innovation and regulation. Not micromanaging progress, but holding actors responsible when they violate public trust.

We’ve long said that AI is too important not to regulate, and too important not to regulate well.

The race should be for the best AI regulations, not the first AI regulations. Not looking for easy solutions, but making hard trade-offs, between security and openness, between data access and privacy, between explainability and accuracy.

We’ll need widespread regulatory expertise, since every agency is going to need to be an AI agency. And we’ll need proportionate, risk-based rules that build on existing regulations and give businesses the confidence they need to keep investing in AI innovation.

Let me be clear: There are real challenges ahead on topics like misinformation, discrimination, and the future of work. But we’re making real progress on all fronts—there’s never been a challenge that humanity couldn’t find a way to address.

And maybe that’s the right note to end on.

When I was a kid in the United States, Star Trek talked about space as “the final frontier.”

But I don’t believe it: Science is an endless frontier. With risk, but also with boundless opportunity.

AI can not only address our hardest social challenges and solve problems on the frontiers of science, but it can also promote European, and democratic, geopolitical influence and competitive advantage.

We are encouraged to see governments stepping up: Singapore‘s AI Verify effort, the UK’s pro-innovation framework, the US Executive Order, the G7’s Hiroshima Process, and of course the EU AI Act and the EU-US Trade and Technology Council meetings.

When we look back on 2023, we may see it as a defining year in Europe’s AI journey.

As I said at the start of my talk, the countries that take advantage of this technology boldly and responsibly today are the ones that will maximize productivity and competitiveness tomorrow.

Each country, each region, needs to ask itself, “What is our digital strategy?”

Not just our cyber-strategy to defend, but our digital strategy to succeed.

We owe it to each other to get this right–through global, pro-innovation frameworks and affirmative policy agendas that maximize opportunity.

We look forward to working with leading thinkers on both sides of the Atlantic to build bold and responsible AI tools that benefit everyone.

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