Article Alert: Regulating general-purpose AI: Areas of convergence and divergence across the EU and the US

Authors: Benjamin Cedric Larsen and Sabrina Küspert


The current fast-paced advancement of AI has been described as an “unprecedented moment in history” by one of the pioneers of this field, Yoshua Bengio, at a U.S. Senate hearing in 2023. In many cases, recent progress can be linked to the development of so-called “general-purpose AI” or “foundation models.” These models can be understood as the “building blocks” for many AI systems, used for a variety of tasks. OpenAI’s GPT-4, with its user-facing ​​​system​ ChatGPT and third-party applications building on it, is one example of a general-purpose AI model. Only a small number of actors with significant resources have released such models. Yet, they reach hundreds of millions of users with direct access, and power thousands of applications built on top of them across a range of sectors, including education, healthcare, media and finance. The developments surrounding the release and adoption of increasingly advanced general-purpose AI models have brought renewed urgency to the question of how to govern them, on both sides of the Atlantic and elsewhere.

The European Parliament has acknowledged that the speed of technological progress around general-purpose AI models is faster and more unpredictable than anticipated by policymakers. At the end of 2023, EU lawmakers reached political agreement on the EU AI Act, a pioneering legislative framework on AI, which introduces binding rules for general-purpose AI models and a centralised governance structure at the EU level through a new European AI Office.

Until recently, the U.S. government has pursued a more laissez-faire approach to AI regulation. The “Executive Order on the Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Development and Use of Artificial Intelligence,” issued in fall 2023, outlines a comprehensive approach to U.S. AI governance. Members of Congress also have presented a variety of legislative proposals for AI, but a federal legislative process dedicated to regulating general-purpose AI models remains absent.

This article outlines recent developments of the European Union along with the United States in the area of general-purpose AI regulation, demarcating important areas of convergence and divergence among the EU AI Act and the U.S. executive order. Finally, the voluntary G7 Code of Conduct on AI is discussed as one mechanism to induce greater international alignment, delineating a shared route to the governance of more advanced AI.

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Image credit: Image by kjpargeter on Freepik

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