The Netherlands is not well prepared for the major changes that artificial intelligence (AI) brings and the government therefore has to go hard to jail so as not to miss the boat. This is the most important message that the Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR) gives in an opinion requested by the cabinet that is published today. “Otherwise, there is not only the risk of missing opportunities, but also that society will be stuck with a technology that does not serve our interests.”
Artificial intelligence is already being applied in many places, for example in self-driving cars, facial and voice recognition on phones, purchase or viewing recommendations, fraud detection, or company chatbots. “And that‘s just the beginning,” says the WRR. “It is urgent for the government to develop a vision of our digital world.”
The WRR sees AI as a so-called system technology that is going to fundamentally change our lives, such as the arrival of electricity, the internal combustion engine and the computer did before. “Which public values are affected by AI and in what way, is impossible to determine in advance. It is clear, however, that the role of the government will grow as AI becomes more embedded in society.”
Council believes that vision for the future requires great involvement of the government. It should give a realistic picture of AI in the first place: it’s not something to be afraid of, but it‘s not the solution to everything either. The government must also invest in infrastructure and training, involve civil society organisations in AI, regulate (the use of) AI and establish a kind of AI diplomacy, in which cooperation with other countries is involved.
To address all these points, according to the WRR, the government would do well to set up an AI coordination centre, with its own ministerial subcouncil. “By taking action now, the Netherlands can reap the benefits of AI – the electricity of the 21st century.”
Hundreds of millions for AI
It’s not like the government is doing nothing at all in the AI field right now. In October 2019, the ambition was expressed to free 2 billion euros for investment in AI. “The core of the Dutch AI policy is to cash in on the social and economic opportunities of AI, and to secure public interests at AI,” then Minister Kaag wrote to the House of Representatives at the end of May.
A month earlier, the Dutch AI coalition, a public-private partnership, was allocated 276 million from the National Growth Fund. In doing so, the parties involved want to “get the Netherlands into the international breakaway of countries, both in the field of social conditions and the economic use of AI”.
The European Commission also sees AI as an important development. In April, therefore, new rules were presented.