UN Seeks International AI Consensus With New Body

An interim United Nations report on artificial intelligence (AI) is intended to “connect governance responses” across borders, the UN’s tech envoy, Amandeep Singh Gill, has said.

The AI governance body, with a membership of 39 people from across 33 countries, was created last Thursday with the aim of fostering a consensus on the risks and challenges of the rapidly developing technology.

It plans to release a preliminary report by the end of this year and a final one next year, with its recommendations to be discussed at a UN summit next September.

The move comes at a time when countries around the world are focusing on AI regulation, with the UK holding the world’s first international summit on the issue later this week.

Image credit: United Nations

AI guidelines

US president Joe Biden issued an executive order on AI on Monday, the same day that the G7 group of countries published voluntary guidelines for advanced AI development.

Gill told Reuters there was a need to take a governance perspective that went “across borders”.

“We need to examine the landscape of existing governance responses across borders, and then see where the gaps are and how we can connect the governance responses together so that there are no gaps,” he said.

He said the UN’s interim report would be aimed at helping governments and the private sector to think more about AI governance, risks and opportunities.

Contrasting approaches

China and the US, two of the countries participating in the advisory body, are taking diametrically opposed approaches to AI governance, with China taking the lead in issuing top-down regulations, while the US has allowed the private sector to take the lead as it surveys whether new laws are needed.

US members of the forum include executives from Google, Microsoft and OpenAI, while China has contributed two university professors.

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres in June backed a proposal by some AI executives for the creation of an international AI watchdog similar to the International Atomic Energy Agency, something that the advisory body will consider.

It would be up to member states, however, to take action with the formation of such an agency.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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