Conceptual image of the future of AI with people going through a tunnel

Why is a future-proof regulation for digital and AI so relevant to our future?

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At Re-Imagine Europa, we have discussed the need to better regulate Digital Technologies and  Artificial Intelligence for several years, even before RIE’s renowned meeting in Berlin in 2019. Surely, that’s not an easy task: European institutions have been working on it for almost a decade, but the landscape of digital technologies & artificial intelligence is changing so quickly that it’s difficult to devise future-proof regulations.


Recent developments make a comprehensive discussion on how we want to shape the future of AI and digital technologies far more urgent. This urgency will not disappear even if we stop AI development for months or years – as someone suggested – because technologies are not good or bad per se: they can be beneficial or harmful depending on the use we make of them.

The real problem with AI lies in interpreting how it can be exploited for the good of people, our societies and our economies. We had to learn this the hard way through the development of the network society: at the very beginning, in the early 2000s, we were all dreaming of a fairer, utopistic society that these amazing “technologies of freedom” could bring through their development. We followed a completely wrong premise, thinking that any regulation could damage such a utopian dream.

Now, almost twenty years later, we are still struggling to solve the many problems that non-regulation and later self-regulation have caused: they completely wrecked free competition, significantly increased the concentration of power and wealth, harmed civil rights, and exhausted our democracies. We are still far from reinstating the balance on some of these topics. There is a lesson to be learned here: we should be very careful about letting new technologies go completely unregulated.

Yet, recent controversies show that the narratives haven’t changed much. At Re-Imagine Europa, we all agree that people and institutions should seriously debate how AI can be regulated and developed to help humans improve their quality of life, foster their rights and be more productive. Of course, there will be different opinions on how these objectives can be achieved and which values should be prioritised!

How we regulate such a pervasive and potentially intrusive technology is a crucial debate about our future and how the next generations will dwell on planet Earth – if we manage to fix our issues with the environment, something on which AI could also help significantly. It will not be easy, as regulating something new is always a process of trial and error. Still, as humans, we have a good common starting point: we all agree that technology should serve our interests, not the other way around.

Unless we agree on common rules, any future development in digital technology (including artificial intelligence) will continue to progress in a direction that protects the interests of large companies which invest billions in it. Re-Imagine Europa has been working to involve a growing public in the debate on regulating digital technologies, which is of the utmost importance for the future of democracy and civil rights.


Several projects were started in the last few months exactly with this idea in mind, from the Narratives Observatory combating Disinformation in Europe Systemically (NODES), a pilot project we are proud to coordinate, to the rapidly evolving SoBigData project we have been supporting for many years and the interesting Orbis dealing with deliberative democracy and coordinated by our partner Politecnico di Milano, to which we are contributing through our citizen engagement project Future4Citizens.


Reimagine TALKS, the podcast to reimagine our way of thinking, is the latest element of this agenda. Our Chief Executive, Erika Staël von Holstein Widegren and our Research Director, Luca De Biase, dialogue with some of the greatest thinkers of the 21st century on the most innovative topics of these years. The second episode, Reimagine Power with Professor Manuel Castells, was published in partnership with six prominent news outlets in different countries on July 20th.


More will come soon, so stay connected!


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