“But the technology is accelerating at an exponential pace and China is an important global player on AI. We need to discuss the extreme risks and how we can effectively deal with these through global governance.”
Officials pointed to issues flagged by developers of advanced AI – ranging from biohazards and cyber risks to extinction – as areas in which talks involving China would be useful.
In May, more than 350 executives, researchers and engineers working in AI – including a coterie of Chinese stakeholders – signed a one-sentence open letter warning of the existential risk the technology poses.
“Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks, such as pandemics and nuclear war,” says the statement released by the non-profit Centre for AI Safety.
For instance, in an experiment last year, it took just six hours for an AI system for developing medication to invent 40,000 potentially lethal molecules that could be used in chemical and biological warfare, raising concerns about the technology falling into the wrong hands.
Jourova will hold a “high-level digital dialogue” with Vice-Premier Zhang Guoqing on Monday, the first such meeting since 2020.
Jourova recently took over duties from Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s powerful digital and competition chief who took a leave of absence to run for the presidency of the European Investment Bank.
Jourova is expected to sign a deal guaranteeing consumer safety for Chinese products bought online in Europe, but there are expected to be more bones of contention than areas of agreement.
She will raise the use of AI technology to surveil the Uygur community in the far western region of Xinjiang, as outlined in an explosive UN report last August.
Jourova is expected to meet the EU Chamber of Commerce in China before the dialogue and will raise the concerns of EU businesses to Zhang.
During her 24 hours in Beijing, she will also visit the Institute for AI International Governance of Tsinghua University.
The trip is one in a series by top EU officials ahead of a summit expected to be held in November, although no date has been officially set.
Trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis will travel the week after Jourova in a trip that will be dominated by Brussels’ decision to launch an investigation into subsidies for electric vehicles made in China.
“Global markets are now flooded with cheaper Chinese electric cars and their prices kept artificially low by huge state subsidies. This is distorting our market,” von der Leyen said earlier this week when announcing the investigation.
Top EU diplomat Josep Borrell will follow in October to discuss geopolitical issues with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.