Who is responsible for shaping the technologies that shape our minds and society?
Which regulatory process can provide a democratic governance of technology?
When should technology be regulated?
These are the three key questions that Professor Mantelero addressed in his speech on the opening panel on the assessment of social impacts of the use of technology at the annual Spring Conference of the data protection authorities of the Member States of the EU and of the Council of Europe.
Stating that technology is not neutral but value-driven, Professor Mantelero outlined three main stages of the evolving process of technology governance: the breaking point, the compromise, and the evolving path.
As in the past, in the case of the industrial revolution, the media revolution, and the digital revolution, the current AI revolution has reached its breaking point with an increasing impact on society. The scenario is characterised by limited legal tools to address it, a patchwork of self-regulatory solutions, and an industrial environment that often shows a lack of business responsibility.
Stressing the fact that innovation is not a wild spirit, but must be guided by values, Professor Mantelero emphasised the key role of accountability and responsible innovation. At the same time, he framed the future AI regulation as a compromise between European core values and industrial policy, in which individuals, communities, states and business can play different roles but also suffer from limitations in fulfilling their goals.
For this reason, in the long run, it is important to plan an evolving path from a top-down approach to co-design, as none of the actors mentioned can be regarded as the sole value designer. Value-driven design must be the result of a participatory and democratic process where the risk-based approach (at the core of the AI Act) is just the first step towards a governance of technology development based on key legal and ethical principles resulting from a democratic participatory process that should be transparent and inclusive.