In a first, on existential threat AI poses, UN Council calls urgent meet

UN council meeting is expected to address the potential threats that AI poses for the first time ever.

| Updated on: Jul 17 2023, 17:31 IST
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This meeting, organized by the United Kingdom during its presidency of the council, is scheduled for July 18. (Pexels)

The United Nations Security Council is set to hold its first-ever meeting to address the potential threats posed by artificial intelligence (AI) to international peace and security. This meeting, organized by the United Kingdom during its presidency of the council, is scheduled for July 18. The UK Ambassador, Barbara Woodward, highlighted the tremendous potential of AI, but also acknowledged major risks, such as its use in autonomous weapons or controlling nuclear weapons.

UN Council meeting

The event will feature briefings from international AI experts and the Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, who recently expressed concerns about the dangers associated with advanced AI. He compared the alarm surrounding AI to the loudest warning signals heard from its developers, emphasizing its potential as an existential threat on par with nuclear war.

To address these concerns, Guterres revealed plans to establish an advisory board on artificial intelligence in September, aiming to develop initiatives that the UN can adopt. He also supported the idea of a new UN agency dedicated to AI, using the International Atomic Energy Agency as a model due to its knowledge-based structure and regulatory powers.

Ambassador Woodward stressed the need for a multilateral approach in managing the opportunities and risks of AI. She highlighted AI's potential benefits, such as assisting UN development programs, enhancing humanitarian aid operations, supporting peacekeeping efforts, and aiding conflict prevention through data collection and analysis. Additionally, AI could help bridge the gap between developing and developed countries.

However, Woodward acknowledged that addressing the risks associated with AI is crucial for global security. European efforts to regulate AI have been at the forefront, and on June 14, EU lawmakers approved the world's first comprehensive rules for artificial intelligence.

In May, the CEO of OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, emphasized the importance of government intervention to mitigate the risks posed by increasingly powerful AI systems. The idea of establishing a U.S. or global agency to license and regulate powerful AI systems has been proposed to ensure compliance with safety standards.

The Security Council meeting, chaired by UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, aims to gather expert perspectives on AI—a rapidly developing technology—and initiate discussions among the 15 council members on its implications. In addition, the UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, announced that the country will host a summit on AI later in the year, providing a platform for a global multilateral discussion on this critical issue.

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First Published Date: 17 Jul, 12:24 IST