The issue of artificial intelligence (AI) has been discussed at the world body responsible for maintaining global peace and security.

Reuters reported that the United Nations Security Council held its first meeting on artificial intelligence on Tuesday, as nations and governments around the world grapple over its regulation and governance.

The development comes multiple calls from some AI experts about real world risks of ungoverned development of AI systems in the years ahead.

Image credit: Tara Winstead/Pexels

UN Security Council

The first meeting at the UN Security Council on AI, comes as the UK holds presidency of the security body in July.

The UK under Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has already agreed to host an international summit on the risks and regulation of AI later this year.

It comes after the UK PM said he wanted the UK to be the “geographical home” of coordinated international efforts to regulate AI.

The UK has already set out its plan to regulate the artificial intelligence (AI) sector and proposed five principles to guide its use via its “adaptable” AI plan.

Other governments and nations are at different states of proposed legislation of the technology.

AI impact

Speaking at the UN Security Council meeting on Tuesday, the UK’s Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, who chaired the meeting, said AI will “fundamentally alter every aspect of human life,” Reuters reported.

“We urgently need to shape the global governance of transformative technologies because AI knows no borders,” he reportedly said, adding that AI could help address climate change and boost economies.

But Cleverly also warned that the technology fuels disinformation and could aid both state and non-state actors in a quest for weapons.

The 15-member council was briefed by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Jack Clark, co-founder of high-profile AI startup Anthropic, and Professor Zeng Yi, co-director of the China-UK Research Center for AI Ethics and Governance, Reuters reported.

“Both military and non-military applications of AI could have very serious consequences for global peace and security,” Guterres reportedy said.

Guterres backs calls by some states for the creation of a new UN body “to support collective efforts to govern this extraordinary technology,” modelled on the International Atomic Energy Agency, the International Civil Aviation Organisation, or the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

National stances

So what did other nations say about the advent and uptake of AI?

Deputy US Ambassador to the UN, Jeffrey DeLaurentis, said there was a need for countries to also work together on AI and other emerging technologies to address human rights risks that threaten to undermine peace and security.

“No member states should use AI to censor, constrain, repress or disempower people,” he was quoted as telling the council.

China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Jun described AI as a “double-edged sword” and said Beijing supports a central co-ordinating role of the UN on establishing guiding principles for AI.

“Whether it is good or bad, good or evil, depends on how mankind utilises it, regulates it and how we balance scientific development with security,” Zhang was quoted by Reuters as saying, adding that there should be a focus on people and AI for good to regulate development and to “prevent this technology from becoming a runaway horse.”

Russia meanwhile, currently questioned whether the UN Security Council should be discussing AI.

“What is necessary is a professional, scientific, expertise-based discussion that can take several years and this discussion is already underway at specialised platforms,” Russia’s Deputy UN Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy was quoted as saying.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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