British Standards are a Powerful Under-Legislated way to Lead in A.I.

by Dr. Christian de Vartavan, CEO Projectis Consultants Ltd.

Europe is heavily legislating A.I., and there is widespread agreement on the need for control. However, an alternative path that leverages standards presents a compelling case for managing A.I. Vivienne Artz OBE's contribution during Parliament's APPG AI on May 17th shed light on this approach and prompts a change in my perspective. In this article, I will explore how embracing standards can help the U.K. master AI, gain significant benefits, and outpace other nations in its adoption.


The Need for Regulation in A.I.

Legislation is often the primary means to regulate A.I. The European Commission and the European Parliament have been lauded for their landmark work. However, an alternative approach aligns with the British way of law and life, emphasising standards over legislation.


The British Approach: Leveraging Standards

Standards have long been a strength of the U.K., respected worldwide. They serve as a reference and a lucrative source of revenue, with British standards generating £628.7 million in 2021. The government's white paper, 'A.I. regulation: a pro-innovation approach,' highlights the importance of regulating A.I. within established standards. Rather than relying on new legislation, this approach involves collaboration between government, regulators, and businesses.


The Benefits of a Standards-Based Approach

By framing the use of A.I. within standards, the U.K. can avoid cumbersome legislative processes and foster responsible A.I. innovation. This "reverse engineering" approach focuses on managing A.I. from the bottom up, offering a distinctly British way of handling A.I. Instead of being burdened by over-regulation, British companies can thrive in spaces where European regulations impede progress, creating a significant advantage that will be challenging for Europe to overcome. The United States faces similar risks if it follows the same legislative path.


Over-Regulation: Implications for Europe and the U.S.

Technocratic legislation from Brussels and national regulations increasingly burdens European citizens and businesses. The French legal system is known for its complexity. This over-regulation hinders business development and imposes heavy fines for non-compliance. The new European A.I. legislation will only exacerbate the situation. By avoiding excessive regulation, the U.K. can position itself to evolve more rapidly and create a widening gap that other nations will struggle to bridge.


A Call to Reflect and Define A.I.'s Boundaries.

A.I.'s potential to innovate and create unknown dangers necessitates a cautious approach. Instead of rushing into legislation, reflecting and defining what A.I. should and should not do in various contexts is essential. However, specific areas like national security may require legislation. Exceptional laws should be carefully measured, and any proposed regulatory agency for A.I. should be managed cautiously to strike the right balance.


Exceptional Laws and a Unique British Approach

While exceptional laws may be necessary for specific cases, they should be exceptions rather than rules. The British approach, driven by scaled standards, allows A.I. to thrive within defined boundaries. This approach enables A.I. to coexist with society while minimising risks and fostering responsible innovation.


A British Path to Mastering A.I.

The U.K. has a unique opportunity to lead in A.I. by leveraging its renowned standards and history of innovation. By embracing this approach, we can shape the future.


Dr de Vartavan is the CEO of Projectis Consultants Ltd and a Member of the U.K. Parliament's APPG AI, led by Lord Tim Clement-Jones and Stephen Metcalfe MP, since October 2019. He has talked about and published on the ethics of A.I., including a letter to the Financial Times about the use A.I. driven weapons