The United Nations secretary-general has warned that artificial intelligence (AI) is being used to spread disinformation and hate, as he backed a proposal for the creation of an international watchdog to monitor the technology.
During the launch of a new disinformation policy on Monday, Antonio Guterres expressed concerns about the threats posed by AI to democracy and human rights, despite its potential for good. He endorsed the proposal put forth by certain AI executives to establish a regulatory body similar to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as a means of addressing these risks.
Generative AI technology, exemplified by the popular ChatGPT, has garnered significant public attention in the past six months due to its ability to perform tasks like natural language processing, code generation, and text summarization. However, the proliferation of AI has also raised worries about the creation of misinformation and deep fakes, AI-generated images and videos that mimic real people.
Guterres emphasized the urgent need to heed the warnings from AI developers themselves, who have labeled generative AI an existential threat on par with the risks of nuclear war. He stressed the importance of taking these warnings seriously and announced plans to establish a high-level AI advisory body by the end of the year. This body would review AI governance arrangements regularly and provide recommendations to ensure alignment with human rights, the rule of law, and the common good.
While Guterres expressed support for the concept of an artificial intelligence agency inspired by the IAEA, he clarified that its creation would require the involvement of member states rather than the United Nations Secretariat. The IAEA, founded in 1957, promotes the safe and peaceful use of nuclear technologies and has 176 member states.
OpenAI, the organization behind ChatGPT, recently suggested that an agency akin to the IAEA could impose restrictions on AI deployment, verify compliance with safety standards, and monitor computing power usage.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also endorsed the idea and expressed a desire for Britain to host global AI safety regulation. A summit addressing coordinated international action to mitigate AI risks is scheduled to take place in the UK this year.
Robert Sparrow, a Philosophy Professor at Monash University in Australia, acknowledged that global AI regulation would present challenges but emphasized the necessity of a cultural shift in engineering, computer science, government, and civil society.
Guterres supported the idea of a summit in Britain but emphasized the need for preparatory work beforehand. He also disclosed plans to appoint a scientific advisory board consisting of AI experts and chief scientists from UN agencies in the coming days.