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Macron calls for French AI innovation as EU votes to regulate

Emmanuel Macron, France's president, speaks at the VivaTech fair in Paris, France, on 14 June 2023. (Photo: Nathan Laine / Bloomberg)

French President Emmanuel Macron staked out his country’s response to the European Parliament’s AI legislation, pledging to support startups while setting the stage for a dispute with the bloc on proposed restrictions. 

Speaking at a technology event in Paris Wednesday, Macron said French institutional investors including insurance companies pledged to allocate €7 billion in funding to an ongoing national initiative to support tech innovation known as Tibi 2. He also touted income tax reductions for individuals investing in startups.

Macron praised French talent in artificial intelligence (AI) research, but called for more local startups in the sector.

“We’re leaders in continental Europe,” he said. “We’re being slightly outdone by the British, who have created champions, but it’s not impossible to catch up,” noting that American and Chinese companies were well ahead.

He spoke hours after the European Parliament overwhelmingly approved an “AI Act” restricting the use of the technology, including a complete ban on real-time, remote biometric surveillance. Lawmakers want the rules to impact companies by 2026, but first they have to negotiate with member states, and the French President’s remarks point to tension with national policy and that of the EU.

He nevertheless cited the importance of worldwide cooperation in regulation.

“We can’t do this just for continental Europe,” he said. “The OECD knows how to build international approaches, as we have done with tax issues. In my opinion, this is the approach we need to take to avoid creating bias.”

He called for copying the UK’s approach of asking big AI companies to “open their books” and work together on regulation, and pointed towards the need for stress tests that detect copyrighted content as well as sexist, racist and anti-Semitic bias. He also said larger French-language databases must be created for training AI models, in order to avoid the risk of “Anglo-Saxon bias”.

The president spoke from the VivaTech conference in Paris. Elon Musk is expected to speak at the event on Friday and meet with Macron the same day to discuss potential investments in France.

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  • Fayzal Mahamed says:

    I am one of the few persons on earth that accepts the evolution of human beings to AI. Who knows? AI might do a better job managing the earth and its resources considering all the wars, killing and climate change that humans have inflicted upon itself.

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