How robotics will shape Europe – and the policy that will support it

Interview with Eva Kaili, Member of the European Parliament

How robotics will shape Europe – and the policy that will support it

MEP EVA KAILI

Member of European Parliament - Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament

MEP Eva Kaili is a member of the jury for Epson Europe’s Win-A-Robot contest. She is a respected member of the European Parliament and has been actively involved in policy that surrounds robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) in Europe as well as promoting digital skills at EU level. Here, she shines a light on the role policy must play as robotics and AI increasingly become a part of our lives. Underlining the many possibilities that these products can bring to people, businesses and society, the core message comes down to balance.

1. As Chair of the European Parliament's Science and Technology Options Assessment body, what is the potential for the robotics industr

Chairing the European Parliament's Science and Technology Options Assessment (STOA) has given me a broad view of the impact of the robotics industry. I can see how robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) can be implemented across sectors, from farming to space, and how they are transforming our daily lives, from the simple (such as turning on the lights in our houses) to the more complex (preventing diseases in the health sector and creating new materials for us to wear). In addition, STOA fully expects that in 10 to 20 years there will be jobs created which we cannot even imagine yet (such as a “YouTuber” today).

2. What are the biggest challenges Europe faces for the uptake of AI and robotics and how can we overcome them?

The challenge is to prepare children and the legislative landscape for the future. One of the main challenges we have is ensuring people have the digital skills needed to realise, understand, and work with new technologies. People need to be reassured that robots are there to complement what we do and not take over. We need to give options to legislators to ensure they can make the right decision to support innovation but prevent negative disruption.

3. How can policy-makers and industry work together to make sure people are skilled for the future of work?

We first need legislators to properly understand the technology and the impact it will have. As the rapporteur for my party on the ongoing AI files, I can already see where this understanding is being translated into action and working together to find a solution such as the responsibility should an accident occur. Moving forward, legislators and industry must come together to create an environment where technology can thrive and benefit all, rather than restrict progress.

4. The European Commission is currently developing, along with stakeholders from industry and academia, draft ethics guidelines on AI a

It’s important that addressing these critical ethical decisions always involve sufficient data and non-biased thinking. We cannot be certain that humans will always be less biased than AI and moving forward, the right ethical and legal framework for AI and robotics in Europe must align to our own values. These values (which may be different to other values around the world) include a right to respect individual privacy, human life, quality of life and trust, among others. These are human rights that we have to protect. We must guide industry and policy to consider these ethical rules when developing technologies. 

5. What trends have you seen in robotics and automation technologies in recent years?

It is this aspect of enhancing life I see as the most promising trend. When developing robotics technologies further (and I see so many more today), we have to focus on the applications that really help people live better lives and be cautious of the less-impactful categories, applications and possibilities of robotics.

6. What do you hope to see from Epson’s Win-A-Robot contest?

I hope to see the unexpected. I want to see solutions to problems that we face in our daily lives and new ideas for growth in robotics, especially in sectors such as health. I have already seen AI and robotics which can detect Parkinson’s disease 10 years early by wearing a bracelet, for example. With so many possibilities across all sectors, this contest is a way to encourage smart and creative thinking to make our world a better place.