UN Security Council to hold first-ever talks on AI safety

17 Jul 2023

Rishi Sunak leaving 10 Downing Street. Image: Rory Arnold (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

World leaders are worried about the rise and rise of AI while the UK pitches itself as a leader in regulating the space.

As artificial intelligence technologies continue to get more advanced, world leaders are scrambling to think of ways to minimise its negative impacts on international peace and security. And tomorrow (18 July) marks an important day in this endeavour.

The UN Security Council is getting ready to hold its first-ever formal deliberation on AI in New York, with the UK taking a lead role as it holds the body’s rotating presidency this month.

Leaders from 15 member states, of which five are permanent, will discuss the emerging technology and consider how to mitigate some of the dangers posed by AI to international peace and security as it becomes increasingly integrated with many aspects of human life.

The news, first reported by Reuters, comes a month after UN secretary-general António Guterres backed a proposal to establish an international AI watchdog akin to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

“Alarm bells over the latest form of artificial intelligence – generative AI – are deafening. And they are loudest from the developers who designed it,” Guterres told reporters at the time. “We must take those warnings seriously.”

But it’s not just governments and diplomats who are worried about the consequences of unfettered AI. Earlier this month, OpenAI co-founder and CEO Sam Altman said he is forming a new team to develop ways to control “superintelligent” AI systems and keep them in check.

The team will be tasked with preventing such powerful AI systems – which OpenAI believes could arrive within the decade – from going “rogue” and acting against the interests of humanity.

Meanwhile, across the Irish Sea, UK prime minister Rishi Sunak has been on a campaign to establish London as an epicentre of AI safety regulation. The country plans to host a global summit later this year to “evaluate and monitor the most significant risks” from AI.

“AI has an incredible potential to transform our lives for the better. But we need to make sure it is developed and used in a way that is safe and secure,” Sunak said.

“No one country can do this alone. This is going to take a global effort. But with our vast expertise and commitment to an open, democratic international system, the UK will stand together with our allies to lead the way.”

OpenAI and Anthropic, two AI rising stars that established offices in London last month, are on board with Sunak’s plans, as is Google’s DeepMind. In the EU, lawmakers passed the landmark AI Act last month in a bid to bring a “new age of scrutiny” to the sector.

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Rishi Sunak leaving 10 Downing Street. Image: Rory Arnold (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic