UN Secretary-General António Guterres has unveiled a dedicated AI advisory body with a mandate to harness the technology’s power for good and mitigate its risks through international collaboration and governance.
“AI could power extraordinary progress for humanity,” Guterres said, pointing to a plethora of benefits — from health and education to the digitalisation of developing economies. In addition, “it could supercharge climate action and efforts to achieve the [UN’s] 17 Sustainable Development Goals by 2030,” he added.
However, Guterres cautioned that AI expertise is currently “concentrated in a handful of companies and countries.” This could heighten global inequalities, increase the spread of disinformation and bias, enable surveillance and invasion of privacy — and, overall, lead to the violation of human rights.
“Without entering into a host of doomsday scenarios, it is already clear that the malicious use of AI could undermine trust in institutions, weaken social cohesion, and threaten democracy itself,” noted the Secretary General. “For all these reasons, I have called for a global, multidisciplinary, multistakeholder conversation on the governance of AI so that its benefits to humanity — all of humanity — are maximised, and the risks contained are diminished.”
By the end of this year, UN’s AI advisory body will make preliminary recommendations for three specific areas. These cover international governance of artificial intelligence; a shared understanding of risks and challenges; and key opportunities and enablers for the organisation’s Sustainable Development Goals.
These recommendations will be used for the preparation of the UN’s Summit for the Future in 2024, and will specifically form part of the proposed Global Digital Compact. The initiative aims to outline shared principles for “an open, free, and secure digital future” for all humanity.
The 39-member body hails from a wide range of countries and sectors, such as private companies, academia, governments, and civil society organisations.
Similar global initiatives to ensure the responsible use of artificial intelligence include the G7 AI code of conduct and the upcoming AI Safety Summit in London.