Let me challenge you on this – a sentence used frequently during the debate by both Commissioners.
Commissioner Bulc and Commissioner Vestager
The two Commissioners initiated this joint Citizens’ Dialogue at the College of Europe and requested that the main topic was “The 4th industrial revolution”. Commissioner Bulc opened the debate by sharing with the audience why: “We are already in the 4th industrial revolution and our aim is for Europe to steer the evolution and to put people in the centre”.
When the audience had to express which word best describes the dialogues theme, the answers ranged from ‘Big-Data’, circular economy, disruption, unemployment and opportunities.
However, surprisingly most participants indicated that the 4th industrial revolution means that it is the ‘end of the internet’, to which Commissioner Bulc promptly stated that the internet is far from dead.
Commissioner Vestager warned that the internet is no longer a ‘free-zone’ and that users should apply some common, sceptical sense when using it.
The Commissioner continued that the internet has become a commercial platform for big tech firms and ensured the audience that the European Commission is constantly working to make the internet a more transparent, safer and fairer tool that everybody should be able to trust.
The discussion then continued on the topics of human and digital equality, digital taxation and moved into artificial intelligence. Commissioner Bulc challenged the audience by asking: “what is artificial intelligence?” and encouraged a broad global debate to take place, so that the concept, and vocabulary applied has the same meaning globally.
The participants wanted to know where the two Commissioners stood on the 5G-network, sustainability and why Europe needs healthy and fair competition with China and USA?
On the subject of competition and mergers, Margrethe Vestager was asked to detail the rationale behind the ‘train-merger’ decision and finally she explained the European Commissions’ effort to protect its citizens’ from data misuse via its legislation.
Throughout the dialogue, that atmosphere remained positive and intense thanks to the two powerful and engaging personalities, often each of the two the Commissioners picked up from the other colleague by saying: “Let me challenge you on this…”.