Will Ireland's Artificial Intelligence Advisory Council set trends or simply follow them?

Joshua Taggart, Junior Consultant

Ireland is continuing to prioritise digital affairs - whether delivering on its National Digital Strategy, data centre investments, or a low tax environment, it’s clear Finance Minister Michael McGrath had to a lot to offer global investors when he stated at Davos that Ireland is ‘open for business’.

In a move that underscores Ireland's commitment to harnessing the power of artificial intelligence (AI) responsibly, the Government has announced the establishment of the Artificial Intelligence Advisory Council. The initiative aims to provide independent expert advice to the Government on the development and deployment of AI technologies.  

The Council will be a mechanism for sharing expert opinion and not a consultative or a representative forum and won’t have formal powers beyond giving advice. However, itmarks a significant stride towards proactive governance in the rapidly evolving field of AI. Comprising experts from academia, industry, and civil society, the council is poised to act as a strategic guide for the Irish government in navigating the complexities and challenges associated with AI. As Ireland positions itself as a hub for technological innovation, the establishment of this council underscores the importance of ethical considerations and responsible AI practices. Leo Varadkar’s recent sit-down with OpenAI’s Sam Altman demonstrates how seriously this topic has permeated the highest echelons of government.

Greater government oversight of AI has certainly become a global trend.  While the UK has attempted to act as a global convenor, hosting an AI Safety Summit in November last year, other nations such as the United States and Singapore have taken a more hands-off approach, even in the wake of President Biden’s executive order which requires the AI industry to prioritise safety, counter fraud and advance equity policies. This is unsurprising, given the clout which US tech giants hold with the likes of Google, Apple, Meta and many others being US-founded and Singapore’s long-standing focus on economic liberalism and light regulation.

One of the key focal points of Ireland’s Council is to ensure the ethical development and deployment of AI technologies and create a trustworthy and human-centric AI environment. This will be a welcome development for Brussels, who have been frustrated in recent years by Ireland’s divergence when it comes to tech policy and enforcement.

As the Council deliberates on the societal impacts of AI and formulates its recommendations for the Government, it can play a pivotal role in building this trust. This will be done primarily through its workplan, which will be developed and delivered to the Cabinet Committee on the Economy and Investment.

Ultimately, the establishment of this Council is part of a wider global trend where nations are recognizing the need for ethical AI governance. While some governments, like that in the EU, have opted for comprehensive legal frameworks such as the AI Act, others have chosen advisory and collaborative models.  

Ireland will, of course, be subject to implementing the AI Act as a bloc-wide directive, but a domestic advisory council on AI itself could result in Ireland developing leading concepts and regulatory models which influence other nations like the UK, Canada, Australia and even the United States.

Ireland's establishment of the Artificial Intelligence Advisory Council represents a forward-looking approach to AI governance, with implications that extend far beyond its national borders. The effectiveness of these efforts will depend on their ability to balance innovation with ethical considerations, foster public trust, and contribute to a global dialogue on responsible AI development.

By contributing to the broader European conversation on AI ethics, regulation, and innovation, Ireland can position itself as a leader in responsible AI practices. As the Advisory Council begins its work, its recommendations have the potential to shape the trajectory of AI development in Europe, guiding the continent towards a future where technological advancements align with ethical considerations and societal well-being. Whether Ireland becomes a trend-setter or simply follows the curve on AI regulation remains to be seen.

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