Policy Group: IEEE EPPI wg on ICT
IEEE is technology’s voice in political debates in Europe.
By Anders P. Mynster
In a world where everything moves faster and faster, it is important to hold onto the fact that there are backgrounds that you need to take into consideration when discussing changes at the political level. Ensuring that political decisions take the technology’s development, requirements, and limitations into consideration, is the main focus of the policy group ’IEEE EPPI working group on ICT (European Public Policy Initiative working group on Information and Communication Technology).
The policy group is part of IEEE, and consists of 12 leading engineers within information and communication technology (ICT), elected from a group of 250 applicants who are all European technology experts. Anders Mynster, Senior Consultant at DELTA (a part of FORCE Technology) has been appointed chairman of the working group.
There has been focus on putting together a broad group, so that there are both young and old, East and West, hardware and software from the academic, industrial and public sectors. In this way, the group endeavours to be able to provide the political debate in Europe with objective facts from the world of technology. This is done through participation in dialogue between members from the European Commission and the European Parliament, by organising public debates, and by writing technical articles, which can be used as technical facts for political discussions. If the technology – based on the technical data – clearly speaks for one political solution over another, the IEEE can express this as a political opinion in the form of a policy article.
Broad specialist content
Because ICT is undergoing rapid development, there are many topics that have been discussed in the working group in recent years:
- Artificial intelligence and ethics
- Internet governance
- Disruptive innovation
- Spectrum management
- Electronic medicine
- Energy consumption by ICT equipment
- Net neutrality
- Smart grids for smart cities
Technically experts will recognise that it is a very broad field of technology, which is new or is being pulled in new directions in recent times. It is something that has had a major effect on our society and is the joint result of technology and politics. We live with technology all around us, but without the correct political guidelines and uses, technology will either become misused or not used to its full potential. Therefore, the group’s most important goal is to facilitate contact between technological specialists and politicians and civil servants who create the guidelines for the use of technology.
Obviously, it is not possible to look in detail at all of these topics in a single article, but to illustrate the type of work that is focused on in EPPI, the conference on artificial intelligence and ethics is a good example. At the conference, the possibility was discussed of incorporating ethical programming as a tool in connection with artificial intelligence.
The discussions included artificial intelligence that had in-built algorithms, which would weigh social advantages and disadvantages in a decision, or which include Kant’s categorical imperative in the system design. A subject that is extremely important, when we begin to make autonomous systems like self-driving cars or robots that work in home care. Questions that fall between the human and the technical aspect, for example, “Can machines make ethical or moral decisions?” must be discussed so that we form a common understanding for both engineers and society.
But when we do this, we should also consider whether the system can be considered a machine in the traditional sense. Some people believe that this is not the case, and therefore, there has to be special and easier rules for this type of product, e.g. robots that can work together with people, and which shall not have protective screens. But this introduces the risk of introducing loopholes in the legislation for manufacturers, who try to work around the safety measures. It is important for the working group to inform people about the technical background, so that the optimal legal, societally beneficial and innovation-creating model can be found.
IEEE stands for Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers. IEEE has 420,000 members, spread across 160 countries, making it the biggest organisation of its kind in the world, and is dedicated to promoting technology for the benefit of humanity.