Swedish, US officials see promise of AI but also the need for global agreements

The European Union Parliament building in Brussels, Belgium. The recently enacted EU AI Act regulates risks when it comes to the development of AI technologies.

The European Union Parliament building in Brussels, Belgium. The recently enacted EU AI Act regulates risks when it comes to the development of AI technologies. Thierry Monasse/Getty Images

The U.S. and other nations need to have “an open and enlightened global conversation” around regulating AI technologies to maximize their potential and mitigate their risks, according to Sweden’s director general for trade.

Artificial intelligence technologies have the potential to revolutionize a host of sectors — from agriculture and healthcare to the defense industry and beyond — but global innovators need to ensure that they are harnessing the potential of these emerging tools while also working to counter their unsafe uses, according to Swedish and U.S. officials.

During an event Tuesday at the Swedish embassy on the country’s development and use of AI, representatives from the two nations spoke about the transformative impact emerging technologies are likely to have in the future, while also pointing to the need for international partners to prioritize responsible and ethical uses of AI. 

Per-Arne Hjelmborn, director general for trade at the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, said more cooperation between allied nations is needed to establish rigorous guardrails around the more nefarious uses of AI and promote innovative uses of the technology moving forward.

“An open and enlightened global conversation on how we best can make use of the new technologies is very much needed,” he said, adding that Sweden and the U.S. “share the same democratic values for how we can develop the usage of AI.”

While the United Nations General Assembly adopted a nonbinding resolution last week calling for nations to mitigate some of the risks associated with AI, Hjelmborn said the step shows that nations “are speaking with the same voice to define a global consensus on safe, secure and trustworthy AI systems.”

He noted that the European Union’s AI Act — which was signed earlier this month — is also looking to regulate risks when it comes to the development of AI technologies, and added that he hopes it will “also inspire the Americans to look into European solutions here.” 

The U.S. continues to lag behind the EU when it comes to establishing a regulatory framework for the use and development of emerging technologies. The White House and lawmakers have taken some steps to address such needs for AI, but legislative proposals largely remain mired in an evenly divided Congress.

President Joe Biden’s October 2023 executive order on the safe and trustworthy development of AI established some guardrails to mitigate the risks posed by emerging technologies. But Biden and lawmakers cautioned that Congress needs to take legislative action to implement more far-reaching policies. Efforts in the Senate to advance bipartisan proposals also remain ongoing, although senators leading the discussions have cautioned that lawmakers are likely to initially pursue less comprehensive proposals. 

During Tuesday's event, Greg Singleton — the chief AI officer for the Department of Health and Human Services — said Biden’s order pushed the department to develop quality and assurance standards around its use of novel innovations and work to combat bias, discrimination and harm in the technologies.

While he noted that “there are a number of new areas where we can apply these technologies” — including helping clinicians make more informed decisions and addressing time-consuming tasks like filling out medical records — he also said its critical for HHS “to develop these standards, frameworks and the approaches with public and private partnerships so that we understand and know how to develop these technologies for the benefit of all humanity.”

“Ultimately, we're trying to increase the amount of information in this somewhat mysterious space today so that AI can be adopted across the spectrum to advance health and outcomes,” Singleton said. “We want doctors to be in the position to be able to use good information to make good decisions for the best outcomes for their patients.”