Welcome Address – Questions & Answers
Ladies and gentlemen, because our speakers are disciplined and because we have lacked the presence of Mr. Buzek, there is ten minutes from the comments on the floor, and there will be no Q&A in the next panel, so if you have questions, now you have 10 minutes to ask them. The floor is open.
I have a question which I would ask VP Timmermans, because you have made your own remarks and then listened both to what your fellow commissioner and Mr. Lamassoure said. We think we have a purpose, we fear of vision, we think we have values, but we need to update them.
What is the process, what is the method to pick up Mr. Lammasoure’s closing comments that you think is legitimate, and particularly a legitimate method here at the European level which can add value upwards and downwards, whichever way you think that may work.
Thank you for that easy question, I think what is most important having this, also to the other contributions is we create helixes where we interface what people are doing at different levels, on different issues. We have seen in the technology business, that jealously keeping what you know looks nice for a while, but it does not help anyone and Open sourcing has become the thing what makes companies grow and what makes science evolve even faster.
I think in what I would call a post paternalistic society, such is as not just development of science or the confrontation of different cultures or opinions, but also the question of regulation needs to be something that is Open source more than we did in the past.
Just imagine that in this, in how we make laws – European Parliament, Council and Commission, even the simplest of laws take up to two to three (2-3) years to be adopted. Then you relate that to what is happening in the technological world and it is simply and completely out of sync. We need to rethink the way we legiferate, not just legiferate, but also how we regulate at a lower level and how people relate to regulation. Policing is not going to help, but being part of it is probably, what is going to help.
And final point, which I did not make in the mine intervention which I think is extremely important – we need to have a better understanding between generations, because I truly believe that my kids brains are wired differently, because of the technological revolution and when I see my kids’ generation, they are very idealistic but they are also very individualistic. They sometimes lack the capacity to organise and there I think there is this cross generations of something we can learn from each other, to create networks and organisation and to understand that it takes a village to take decision on these issues.
Thank you. I think the openness point is important, but also again we touch a paradox because you say on the one hand more open processes, on the other maybe that it is actually contrary to the run of play at the moment. Maybe we are closing down, although it is never been easier to do open processes and Mr. Lamassoure’s comment about how the weather is better than economics, if you connect an economy well enough, and Estonia is good example, there are people working between Oxford and Tallinn at the moment who can tell you what weather is today in that market, because of the internet of the economy. Because of real time knowledge of payments, purchases, transactions and so maybe those sorts of connections can help to be part of the regulators answer.
You are perfectly right, I am going to Tallinn, Estonia in two days.
One more comment. Of course, we have a problem of interpretation of values. We have common values among Europeans, those values we refer to Article 2. of our treaty and in the 61st articles of the admirable charter of fundamental rights of the human being. But, even among Europeans, we give to these common values different interpretations.
The right for life, for instance, is interpreted differently in some member states. For instance, abortion is still banned in some member states and permitted elsewhere. But, our values are still common values and when we compare with the rest of the world, I take just one example: Bioscience, for instance nobody – no European scientist and hopefully no so- called West consensus would dare set up, invent a chimera but we fear that elsewhere – in Asia, South Korea or I don’t know, values are different, legislation is different and possibly some chimera will be brought to life someday.
What can we do? In Europe and at global level it is a big question mark. Needless to say, I have no answer.
We will benefit from the next panel from voices from many continents and one of the interesting questions is whether the good old-fashioned multilateral west felian methods of answering questions like that have a new validity today, when some if our leading nations, I’m sure of that and popular opinion is equally nod widely supportive of things like the World Trade Organisation, so interesting question.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I now see a forest of hands. The lady in number 69 – she cannot see the number.
Sophie in’t Veld:
My name is Sophie in’t Veld, member of European Parliament in the Liberal Group and I have a remark for Mr. Lamassoure, but if you allow me one devious observation before I make that remark.
I think, when we talk about next generation then maybe all male panels are not really 21st century, which is of course not your fault, but I think this is just not of today anymore.
I was triggered what Mr. Lammasoure said about values, because I think that is, it is a key issue, what VP Timmermans rightfully underlines – we are struggling with the differences in speed between the legislative process which does require time in order to be careful and high quality and the speed of the technological change. And I think the only answer to that is that we do need to define our shared values because that will be the basis for legislation and regulation whatever the procedure will be like and I think that is why is so important that we get beyond the stage where we say – Oh, no! Values is not the matter for the EU, it is strictly national. It is not, it never has been, but it certainly shouldn’t be.
If we want to make European legislation, it can only work i f we do so on the basis of shared values. Does that mean that every single individual, Eu citizen is going to share the same values – of course not. But neither do they at national level. But we need to stop being coy, it shouldn’t be a taboo anymore. Yes, we do have to adopt shared values which are the basis then of our common policies, whatever the legislate process is going to be like. That is the only common response we can have to whatever technological progress is going to be
The interesting question is what is the status of these values that we develop quickly. Can we approach an agile principle of law making and discovery of values such that, when we have said something, its open to further reiteration – it’s a rough consensus rather than saying we make something and then it sits there for 50 years and it takes another 50 years to change.
The status of the statement is what gets in the way of agility. I think we have a sort of existential problem for people in institutional world.
Sophie in’t Veld:
I do not think, I am not sure I fully understand, but of course, the whole debate on values has never been static. It is always ongoing, always. There is always been periods in history where we somehow had to respond to very rapid either technological changes or changes of a different nature, but the basis always have to be those common principles, common values and they have to be common to the community of the European citizens. That is what I am trying to say, because otherwise you cannot cope with the challenges in whatever legislation process you have.
The problem is if you believe that guarantees of morality are the ones sitting in the Parliament, sitting in governments, creating legislation and I think you will never get it right because technology moves too fast, is I think we have strong interest incorporating in creatives of technology, the moral texts and balances we as a society want to have. We should rethink the role of legislation. Legislation isn’t the only way to deal with this. I think there is corporate social responsibility, but corporate moral responsibility is going to be more and more important in the years to come because of the speed that which society develops.
We should also make sure that we have the society that can create that at THAT level, rather than just leave it with Parliaments, judges and politicians.
Sophie in’t Veld:
Indeed, because legislation reflects morality and common values that have been set in the public debate and not the other way around.
That is what we hope and then what happens, so the interesting thing is on the corporate role – will companies accept feedback loops, as the price for the validation of their role and for the institutional legislators the question is whether we agree to one would agree to delegate more, to leave more space for secondary and more spontaneous principle compliant interventions.
These are very hard things to say yes to, especially when we are doing institutional jobs, but there are companies – there are companies in the room. Companies are not comfortable either about being accountable for the self-regulation. It is a difficult discussion.
Of course, now everybody wants to continue and then the Chairman will start the next session late. I think finishing on time is the key.
I give to one colleague the floor at Michelangelo’s suggestion – prof. Floridi, who happens to hail from Oxford, an interesting choice on the part of my neighbour because you actually do a lot of this stuff around ethics which VP Timmermans talked about.
Thank you, I am honoured to be able to have a word in this and I would like to thank you for your intervention.
It is more like a clarification and wonder if you would be happy with this clarification:
This myth about speed of technology and that we cannot catch up – when it comes to ethics, is about direction. And if we know where we are going, you cannot get there fast enough. So, can we just talk about where we are going and not how fast we are going there. Because, if we like the direction – well, I just wait for the technology to be even faster than it is now.
The problem is that we don’t have a direction and therefore, we are worried about how fast we are going into the darkness. How do we cope with this direction is one thing and speed is another.
I think is a very interesting comment you have made, because I think that the problems of today – you are regulating the micro, you are regulating products, you are regulating things that five years down the road do not exist anymore. I think that your comment is really wise in the sense that we should be regulating the direction where we go and if you regulate the direction, then you are not afraid of how fast you go.
The thing is that we are in totally different world, where the date today of the legislator goes to a meet & greet (?) of the legislation of the product of the thing, of the innovation. And that is why as a Commissioner for the Innovation I get very scared of it because I see that the lot if the great things I see, there will not see the light, before there will be some regulation at some point that will just are catching and not letting go and I think that – (to prof Floridi) I just wanted to thank you for that comment, because I think that something that we should repeat are for the governments, for the legislators, for the MEPs and the experience that we are doing that was created in the Netherlands, called The Innovation Deals it is exactly that. It is about putting people around the table and discussing not just the legislator, but putting the companies, putting the regulators and saying: What is the impediment here? It is because we went too much to the micro or not? If not, we are not regulating the direction.
Thank you for your comment, very inspiring.
Ladies and gentlemen, I think we have set the bar fairly high for both of the next panel and for your discussions in different sessions over the next couple of days.
The challenge I take away is the tension between speed and direction, if you can’t have a direction if the speed is zero, so there is somewhere attention of getting the direction right, but also having a common sense that we are making headway as one would say.
And secondly, the challenge to all of us to conceive something completely different, in terms of the societal framing of the Internet that will be completely different and there I liked the key words I heard around feedback loops, heliacal process, open processes and I think that is something that we can take to the next session.
A hand of applause for our Opening panellists.