EU Fights Corporatization of AI and Blockchain With Massive Investment

The European Union’s announcement of a new 110 million euro fund to support research on artificial intelligence and blockchain comes at a critical time for the AI industry, when issues at the intersection of privacy, security and AI are the focus of acute attention by government, the tech industry and the general public.

Blockchain technology has the promise to radically transform the way society handles data as well as how AIs are trained and taught with this data. It has the potential to create a world in which control over and reward from data and AI is distributed more broadly across various stakeholders, including the people who generate the data. But there are still some difficult technical problems to be solved in order to manifest this potential, as well as a lot of large-scale software engineering.

The question isn’t whether this funding program is timely and important, the question is whether it’s anywhere near enough. In this light, the potential for the funding to be increased up to 2 billion euros in 2021 is even more interesting news.

The AI industry in the West is currently dominated by a relatively small number of large players centered in the United States, who have gained their positions by providing users with “free” or discounted services in exchange for the relatively unfettered use of their data. By using this data to train and teach AI systems, these companies have been able to create unprecedentedly effective advertising machines, with extraordinary capabilities of using the patterns mined from personal data to influence peoples’ decisions about purchasing, political elections or anything else.

These large corporations also have numerous collaborative initiatives with governments, some of which are hush-hush and unconfirmed like Google’s connections with the NSA and some of which have been exposed such as Facebook’s permissive attitude toward Cambridge Analytica, a company working specifically for right-wing political organizations within…

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