Griffin on Tech: AI Act progress, Kim’s extradition, and women-led start-ups 

It’s full steam ahead on AI regulation in Europe with members of the EU Parliament passing the draft text of the Artificial Intelligence Act with strong consensus – 499 to 28 votes in favour.

That clears the way for the world’s first law regulating the use of artificial intelligence and can serve as a useful example as we look to develop our own regulation governing this powerful and rapidly advancing technology.

The legislation may be tweaked before the Act is passed, but the EU Parliament vote is an endorsement of the risk-based approach to regulating artificial intelligence, which sees categorizations of risk based on the intended use of the technology.

Rather than restricting use of AI based on attributes of the technology itself, the EU regulator instead looks at the intended us of the technology and the potential harm it could do to the public.

The National Party is taking such an approach with its proposed overhaul of biotech regulation in New Zealand. At the moment, genetically modified crops are banned from being grown in New Zealand simply because they are genetically modified.

A genetic technique, such as using recombinant DNA technology, is classified as GM and automatically becomes subject to some of the tightest regulations in the world, even if the outcome is no different to what could be achieved with traditional methods, such as selective breeding or triggering mutations in plants by exposing them to radiation. That’s not a scientifically-sound approach.

“We’ve effectively had a tighter regulation on GM than we’ve even had on nuclear use,” the former Prime Minister’s chief science advisor, Professor Sir Peter Gluckman, told NewstalkZB this week.  

“We don’t ban nuclear use, we regulate its use [for] medicine and food sterility. We don’t allow it for transport or power generation.”

A risk-based approach to governing use of AI here makes sense, so we have a lot to learn from the Europeans.

Privacy regulators around the Asia Pacific region who were meeting at the Asia Pacific Privacy Authorities (APPA) forum in Mexico, said this week that they will work together to “hold organisations operating across country borders accountable within the requirements of the existing law”.

That’s a significant move given that many AI systems New Zealanders operate are based offshore.

Bye-bye Kim?

I was a bit surprised that kim Dotcom’s former colleagues at Megaupload, Mathias Ortmann, and Bram van der Kolk were sentenced to jail yesterday for their roles in the mass copyright infringement the file locker service facilitated over a decade ago.

The pair had agreed to give evidence against Dotcom as part of their guilty pleas and many years ago moved to form the legitimate and popular file storage platform Mega, settling into quiet family life in New Zealand as low-key businessmen. But the court ruling yesterday served as a reminder of the extent of their offending, with nearly $1 billion lost by the entertainment industry as a result of the illicit filesharing.

Ortmann and van der Kolk feature in many damning message exchanges contained in the trove of evidence the FBI collected. They knew exactly what Megaupload was – a licence to print money from the illegal trading in movies, TV shows, music, and software that took place on the platform, which in 2009 was estimated to account for 3 – 4% of global internet traffic. They pockets millions for their role in the enterprise, and agreed to forfeit $10 million from overseas bank accounts as part of the settlement.

So they will go to jail for the best part of 2.5 years and Kim Dotcom is now likely to have his extradition warrant signed by justice minister Kiri Allan, clearing the way for his removal to the US to stand trial. It likely won’t be the end of the Kim Dotcom saga.

The still-wealthy exile is quite happy in his Queenstown mansion and will use every legal tool available to him to fight extradition. But the outcome looks inevitable. Like Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, the US is determined to make an example of Kim Dotcom and will show him no quarter. The sooner this sorry sideshow ends, the better it will be for New Zealand.

We need more women-led startups

We have a vibrant startup community in New Zealand, but as Marian Johnson, founder of Christchurch based business accelerator Ministry of Awesome explained this week, we don’t have as many as other advanced economies we like to compare ourselves to.

“We need to get to around 5,000 startups to be at that stage where we are sitting shoulder to shoulder with those other economies. We are 2,600 short,” she told The Business of Tech podcast.

That’s based on an assessment of the New Zealand startup scene by the Startup Genome, which compares startup ecosystems around the world. So how do we create more high-growth startups? The obvious answer is to help people become entrepreneurs who would otherwise not embark on starting a company.

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Source: Startup Genome 

“The point is making it as easy as possible to discover the support services they need to build on their great ambition and to bring them as quickly as possible into the community and connect them with the networks that they need to succeed,” Johnson says.

Only 21.6% of New Zealand startups have a female founder, so there’s an obvious area sorely in need of work. The upcoming Electrify Aotearoa conference in Auckland will address the “unique challenges faced by Kiwi women in entrepreneurship”. It sold out last year, so get a ticket quickly if you want to join like-minded women in the New Zealand startup scene.

Source: ITP New Zealand Tech Blog

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