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

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

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.)

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