With the ever-increasing role of artificial intelligence (AI) in daily life, from chatbots to image generators, the United Nations has recognized the need for a dedicated AI advisory body. The purpose? To both embrace the myriad benefits of the technology and to address its potential pitfalls.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres shed light on the vast array of advantages AI brings, encompassing sectors from health and education to the potential transformation of developing economies. Such technology, he believes, has the potential to significantly bolster climate action and push towards the realization of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals by the set 2030 deadline.
The Dual-Edged Sword of AI
While the Secretary-General acknowledges AI’s transformative potential, he’s acutely aware of its challenges. A primary concern is the current concentration of AI expertise within a select group of nations and corporations. This centralization not only threatens to exacerbate global disparities but also introduces other significant risks. Disinformation might spread more readily, biases could become ingrained, and the potential for increased surveillance could jeopardize privacy. These developments pose a threat to human rights and the democratic fabric of societies worldwide.
Moreover, in a stark reminder of the technology’s power, Guterres recalled an instance where he witnessed a video application delivering a speech in impeccable Chinese—using his own likeness—despite him not knowing the language. This instance exemplifies the incredible capabilities and potential threats AI holds.
Diverse Minds Tackling Global Challenges
The advisory body is not just a token initiative. Comprising 39 experts from diverse backgrounds, spanning private sectors to academia and governments, it underscores the UN’s commitment to a broad-based approach to AI. This team will work diligently to provide recommendations, focusing on the international governance of AI, comprehending its risks and challenges, and identifying opportunities to leverage AI for the Sustainable Development Goals.
These insights will then guide preparations for the upcoming Summit for the Future in 2024. Here, a chief focus will be on the proposed Global Digital Compact, emphasizing a shared vision for a digital future accessible and beneficial for all.
While global governance efforts often lag behind technological advancements, the UN’s proactive stance is commendable. Amandeep Singh Gill, the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology, highlighted that the collective expertise of the advisory body aims to bridge the gap between rapid technological growth and the appropriate governance response.
In an era of digital transformation, ensuring AI’s responsible development and use is paramount. With the UN leading the charge, there’s hope for an inclusive, balanced, and beneficial AI-powered future.