New technologies play an increasingly important role in our lives. We can say that two of the most promising and important technologies today are cryptocurrencies and AI. The vast majority of humanity had not even heard of Bitcoin just two years ago, and today is a popular name that anyone can recognize.
But what are cryptocurrencies?
The cryptocurrencies are a digital means of exchange, which operate in a chain of blocks network. The blockchain guarantees the security, integrity and balance of your account statements thanks to the miners, who verify each other. It is the first totally anonymous financial system in the world.
On the other hand, at least until sometime ago we believed that the AI is a more well-known concept and treated in films and science fiction novels. They are machines capable of thinking and learning by themselves. Machines capable of evolving, as if they were living beings.
Many may think that the United States leads in this technological race, but, the European Union is the one that is betting most decidedly on these technologies and for a greater respect to the privacy of the users.
For example, in April 2018, the EU implemented new privacy laws much stricter than its predecessors: the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which requires companies to guarantee the protection of personal data, and ensure that they are not disclosed without the explicit and informed consent of the consumer. Data must be erased from the Internet as soon as the consumer asks for it.
How Europe has setup funds to work on it
Right now the EU invests money in technology through two separate funds and programs: Horizon 2020 (80 billion euros) and the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF). Horizon 2020 is the largest innovation program in the EU, while ESIFs are a more general institution and less specialized in technology. Even so, ESIFs will invest 110 billion euros in innovation.
According to IDC, the total spending of public and private sectors in Western Europe in blockchain could increase to 1,800€ million by 2021. The banking sector is expected to put most of that spending, specifically 46.7%. For its part, the European Commission has already invested more than 80€ million in support of the use of blockchain in technical and social areas, and will allocate another 300 million more in the period 2018-2020.
As if this were not enough, 22 EU member countries signed the Blockchain Association Declaration on the 2018 Digital Day. Soon after, Greece and Romania joined the firm. This association is a fundamental part of the EU’s Single Digital Market project, as it will serve as a technical cooperation body between the Member States.
On the side of artificial intelligence, the European Commission announced that it expects to publish a “coordinated plan on AI” by the end of 2018. Also, the EC will increase its investment in AI to 1.6€ billion for the 2018- 2020 and hopes to generate additional funding of 2.8€ billion from public and private associations in sectors such as robotics and Big Data.
Why Europe will lead this decade of innovation
This year there was a big blockchain conference in Berlin, the BlockShow Europe. 3000 people attended and more than 200 journalists. This is just a small signal of the huge interest that European developers have for the blockchain. Right now there are 8265 blockchain projects active in Europe, being surpassed only by the United States (9565 active projects), according to a Deloitte analysis of the GitHub data.
This leadership is assumed mainly by London, Paris and Moscow. Only in London there are 914 active projects. As if this were not enough, Europe has the largest number of reachable Bitcoin nodes in the world: 5221 nodes, compared to 3375 in the United States and 622 in China.
European blockchain developers look beyond Fintech. The EU hopes to be able to implement blockchain in sectors such as insurance, health, intellectual property, eVoting, managing IDs of citizens, among others. We can highlight initiatives such as Alastria (in Spain), the development of a blockchain solution for the transfer of cross-border values by Deustche Börse in Germany, among others.
On the side of the IAs, the European Commission says it intends to publish ethical guidelines on AI development before the end of 2018. These guidelines will be based on the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU.
The Commission is also considering several ways to open access to data, in order to stimulate artificial intelligence projects. They hope to be able to do so within the framework of the GDPR, despite the fact that several critics consider that the development of AI in Europe will suffer due to the large amount of data to which the IAs don´t currently have access due to the new GDPR regulations. The EC proposes to enact new laws to publish more data, including data from the public sector.
Right now Europe can take pride in having such interesting projects as
Trimbot2020 -5.4€ million- (which is developing a smart gardener robot),
SmokeBot -3.8€ million- (civil robots that would support the fire brigades in missions of search and rescue),
VI-DAS (sensors that automatically detect possible dangerous situations and accidents, alerting the driver),
KConnect -3€ million- (multi-lingual medical information search program)
SIMPATICO -3.6€ million- (personalize and simplify public e-services for citizens), just to mention some of the projects sponsored by the EU.
Europe has been one of the great centers of human civilization on Earth for millennia, and has always been at the forefront of the latest technological or social advances. The rest of the planet has received a great European influence, and to a large extent our ways of thinking have been shaped by Europe. Although Europe partially lost that lead in the 20th century against the United States, today it has a good chance to recover it.
If the EU continues working well and betting on the blockchain and the IA, it will undoubtedly become the new leader of global technology, and a beacon for the rest of humanity.