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Artificial intelligence

A conversation with Dragoș Tudorache, the politician behind the AI Act

Here’s why he believes the landmark law he helped to shepherd through will change the AI sector for the better.

Dragoş Tudorache
DAINA LE LARDIC/EP via European Union

This story originally appeared in The Algorithm, our weekly newsletter on AI. To get stories like this in your inbox first, sign up here.

Dragoș Tudorache is feeling pretty damn good. We’re sitting in a conference room in a chateau overlooking a lake outside Brussels, sipping glasses of cava. The Romanian liberal member of the European Parliament has spent the day hosting a conference on AI, defense, and geopolitics attended by nearly 400 VIP guests. The day is almost over, and Tudorache has promised to squeeze an interview with me in during cocktail hour. 

A former interior minister, Tudorache is one of the most important players in European AI policy. He is one of the two lead negotiators of the AI Act in the European Parliament. The bill, the first sweeping AI law of its kind in the world, will enter into force this year. We first met two years ago, when Tudorache was appointed to his position as negotiator. 

But Tudorache’s interest in AI started much earlier, in 2015. He says reading Nick Bostrom’s book Superintelligence, which explores how an AI superintelligence could be created and what the implications could be, made him realize the potential and dangers of AI and the need for regulating it. (Bostrom has recently been embroiled in a scandal for expressing racist views in emails unearthed from the ‘90s. Tudorache says he is not aware of Bostrom’s career after the publication of the book, and he did not comment on the controversy.) 

When he was elected to the European Parliament in 2019, he says, he arrived determined to work on AI regulation if the opportunity presented itself. 

“When I heard [Ursula] von der Leyen [the European Commission president] say in her first speech in front of Parliament that there will be AI regulation, I said ‘Whoo-ha, this is my moment,’” he recalls. 

Since then, Tudorache has chaired a special committee on AI, and shepherded the AI Act through the European Parliament and into its final form following negotiations with other EU institutions. 

It’s been a wild ride, with intense negotiations, the rise of ChatGPT, lobbying from tech companies, and flip-flopping by some of Europe’s largest economies. But now, as the AI Act has passed into law, Tudorache’s job on it is done and dusted, and he says he has no regrets. Although the act has been criticized—both by civil society for not protecting human rights enough and by industry for being too restrictive—Tudorache says its final form was the sort of compromise he expected. Politics is the art of compromise, after all. 

“There’s going to be a lot of building the plane while flying, and there’s going to be a lot of learning while doing,” he says. “But if the true spirit of what we meant with the legislation is well understood by all concerned, I do think that the outcome can be a positive one.”  

It is still early days—the law comes fully into force two years from now. But Tudorache believes it will change the tech industry for the better and start a process where companies will start to take responsible AI seriously thanks to the legally binding obligations for AI companies to be more transparent about how their models are built. (I wrote about the five things you need to know about the AI Act a couple of months ago here.)

“The fact that we now have a blueprint for how you put the right boundaries, while also leaving room for innovation, is something that will serve society,” says Tudorache. It will also serve businesses, he says, because it offers a predictable path forward on what you can and cannot do with AI. 

But the AI Act is just the beginning, and there is still plenty keeping Tudorache up at night. AI is ushering in big changes across every industry and society. It will change everything from health care to education, labor, defense, and even human creativity. Most countries have not grasped what AI will mean for them, he says, and the responsibility now lies with governments to ensure that citizens and society more broadly are ready for the AI age. 

“The crunch time … starts now,” he says. 

Join Dragoș Tudorache and me at Emtech Digital London on April 16-17! Tudorache will walk you through what companies need to take into account with the AI Act right now. See you next week!


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