April 13, 2024

The United Nations Security Council met for the first time on Tuesday on the threat artificial intelligence poses to international peace and stability, with Secretary-General António Guterres calling on global regulators to monitor the new technology, which brings as much fear as hope.

Guterres warned that AI could facilitate criminals, terrorists and other actors intent on causing “death and destruction, widespread trauma and deep psychological harm on an unimaginable scale.”

Launched last year, ChatGPT — which can create text from prompts, imitate voices and generate photos, illustrations and videos — has raised alarms about disinformation and manipulation.

Diplomats and leading experts in artificial intelligence addressed the Security Council on Tuesday on the risks and threats, as well as the scientific and societal benefits, of the emerging technology. They say that despite the accelerating pace of development of the technology, much remains unknown.

“It’s as if we’re building an engine without understanding the science of combustion,” said Jack Clark, co-founder of Anthropic, an AI-safety research firm.Private companies should not be the sole creators and regulators of AI, he says

Mr Guterres said the UN regulator should act as the governing body to regulate, oversee and enforce AI regulations in much the same way that other agencies regulate aviation, climate and nuclear energy.

The proposed agency would be composed of experts in the field who would share their expertise with government and administrative agencies that may lack the technical knowledge to address AI threats

But the prospect of a legally binding resolution on governance remains remote. However, most diplomats do Endorsed the concept of a global governance mechanism and a set of international rules.

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, who chaired the meeting because the UK assumes the Council’s rotating chair this month, said: “There is no country that is immune to AI, so we must engage the broadest coalition of international actors from all sectors.”

Russia, contrary to most views in the Security Council, is skeptical that it knows enough about the risks of AI to consider it a source of global instability. Zhang Jun, China’s ambassador to the United Nations, opposed the creation of a global set of laws and said international regulators must be flexible enough to allow countries to set their own rules.

However, the Chinese ambassador did say that China opposes the use of artificial intelligence as a “means to create military hegemony or undermine national sovereignty”.

The issue of military assassinations using autonomous weapons on the battlefield or in other countries was also raised, such as the satellite-controlled artificial intelligence robot Israel sent to Iran to assassinate top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

Guterres said the United Nations must reach a legally binding agreement by 2026 banning the use of artificial intelligence in automated weapons of war.

When regulating technology, it’s important not to lose sight of the humans behind it, Professor Rebecca Willett, director of artificial intelligence at the University of Chicago’s Data Science Institute, said in an interview.

These systems are not fully autonomous, and those who design them need to be held accountable, she said.

“That’s one of the reasons the UN is focusing on this,” Professor Willett said. “There really needs to be an international impact so that a company based in one country can’t destroy another country without violating international agreements. Really enforceable regulation can make things better and safer.”

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