The United Nations sees an urgent need for an artificial intelligence (AI) watchdog group but understands that member states must first align on general policies and interests before any such agency could form.
“The urgency is very clear in the U.N.’s perspective,” Under-Secretary-General and U.N. Tech Envoy Amandeep Gill told Fox News Digital in an interview. “Urgency in terms of addressing the risks and addressing the governance gap in the institutions.”
Gill has led the way on the U.N.’s efforts to establish an advisory committee on AI policy, which the organization expects to have up and running by the end of the year. The committee is something the U.N. can establish since it has no governing power, and any watchdog agency must come from the member states and the U.N. can only act with what power the members provide it.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently urged members to pay attention to “alarm bells over the latest form of artificial intelligence,” which are “loudest from the developers who designed it.”
“We must take those warnings seriously,” he said, calling for the formation of an agency “inspired by what the international agency of atomic energy is today.”
The U.N. has repeatedly stressed the urgency of having guardrails in place to handle the “tremendous potential” of AI technology, but the lack of investment in governance tools, “benchmarks” and safety requirements has left governments and member states under-equipped for the changes that AI will create within society.
“Public sector institutions are way behind in terms of their understanding, in terms of their ability to cope with the implications, whether it’s the shifts in the job market or misinformation, disinformation, the threat to democracies,” Gill said. “So, that is driving the perspective on the risk side.”
“At the same time, there’s tremendous potential of AI and data to accelerate progress on the sustainable development goals,” he added. “Whether it’s climate change, resilient agriculture, or, you know, handling the next pandemic, AI can be an invaluable tool.”
“We need to get governance right not only to address the risks but also to be able to drive up the trust in the solutions that we need for sustainable development.”
Discourse concerning AI has intensified since developer OpenAI allowed public access to its ChatGPT program, which took hold of the public’s imagination and attention as the benefits and possible pitfalls started to crystalize.
Many people have understandably latched onto the more frightening potential of AI, such as the ability to severely exacerbate misinformation, increase job loss and shift political bias among the population.
Algorithms that compose the operational capabilities of artificial intelligence are built by humans with certain political and social biases. If humanity becomes reliant on AI to seek out information, then these systems could skew research in a way that benefits one side of the political aisle.
A risk analysis expert previously told Fox News Digital that “an AR-15 is nothing compared to … artificial intelligence, from the disruptive uses of these tools.”
Slowly, however, the positive benefits of AI have grown more evident as experts highlight their potential uses to revolutionize and improve a number of fields.
AI could help push a new model for more efficient and relevant students within the workforce, changing the way the U.S. education system functions. Companies have utilized AI’s capability to process inhuman amounts of data in the smallest of time frames to accomplish such unbelievable feats as helping companies identify potential forced or child labor in their supply chains.
Governments in Africa have started to use AI systems to improve crop rotation and yields, and some have utilized AI to help catch poachers and protect the many endangered species on the continent.
Gill highlighted concerns about the U.N. falling behind on sustainable development goals and the handling of certain crises, including the cost of living crisis – all of which AI can help to alleviate or even resolve.
“The most impressive results I’ve seen with AI is in terms of exploration of research and innovation,” Gill said. “What used to take years in terms of predicting the structure of proteins can be done in months now, so I’m very excited by the potential of AI to accelerate the R&D of solutions across the board, from climate change to agriculture, to health and so on.”
The greatest concern regarding AI lays with the use of “biased or incomplete datasets” because “the context has not been understood properly.”
“[AI can] lead us to solutions or insights and analysis that does not quite reflect the reality, whether it is at all decisions for people who have been incarcerated or it is decisions related to health, etc.,” Gill said. “So, if we get those wrong, then the impact can be massive, also in terms of trust in the AI.”
“The unwise deployment of AI, the rushed deployment of AI without sufficient consideration to context, governance and the life cycle of AI, that’s what concerns me the most.”
Fox News Digital’s Nikolas Launum and Reuters contributed to this report.