08 July 2024

Artificial Intelligence Reg Changes - EU v UK

regulatory updates


You may have read in the press that the UK and EU are having a bit of a regulatory heart-to-heart over Artificial Intelligence, with differing styles that could be summed up as “made to measure vs. off-the-shelf”.

The UK: Savile Row of AI Regulation

The UK, ever one to want to stand out from the crowd, has gone for a proportionate, context-based approach to AI regulation; a little like having a Savile Row tailor craft a specific suit to fit exactly the person it is intended for. The UK AI White Paper, more of a style guide than a rule book, outlines five core principles:

  • safety
  • transparency
  • fairness
  • accountability
  • the ability to challenge AI decisions.

It’s essentially saying to the regulator, “Here’s the fabric and the basic design, now make it work for your clientele.”

This flexible approach has its perks: it can adapt to the ever-evolving AI landscape and avoid stifling innovation. But, like a bespoke suit, it requires a bit more effort to get right. The Regulator will need to understand the specific risks and opportunities of AI in its sector and tailor the principles accordingly. You could argue it’s like expecting every tailor to be an expert in both tweed and tech.

The EU: AI Act – “Ready to go” Regulation

The EU, on the other hand, has opted for a more comprehensive, one-size-fits-all approach with its AI Act. This is a regulation that is ready to be rolled out, designed to cover a wide range of AI applications with clear rules and categories. High-risk AI systems, like those used in critical infrastructure or employment decisions, face stricter requirements, while certain applications deemed too risky, like social scoring, are banned outright.

This approach offers clarity and a high level of protection, but it might not be the perfect fit for every situation. It could stifle innovation and be less adaptable to the rapidly changing AI landscape. Think about trying to squeeze everyone into the same style of suit, regardless of their individual needs or preferences.

The Road Ahead

Both approaches have their strengths and weaknesses, and it remains to be seen which will prove more effective in the long run. The UK’s bespoke approach offers flexibility and potential for innovation, while the EU’s approach provides clarity and a higher level of protection.

For businesses and developers, this means navigating a complex regulatory landscape. Those operating in or with EU customers will need to prepare for the AI Act’s implementation, while those in the UK will need to stay abreast of how regulators interpret and apply the White Paper’s principles in their specific sectors.

The one thing that’s certain is that AI regulation is here to stay, and it’s going to be a fascinating (and perhaps slightly frustrating) journey as we figure out how to best govern this powerful technology.