Civic Tech

UN Security Council meets on AI risks

Guterres expressed his concern over both military and non-military applications of AI

During its inaugural session on artificial intelligence, the United Nations Security Council convened to address various concerns raised by participating countries. China emphasized the importance of preventing AI from becoming uncontrollable, referring to it as a potential “runaway horse,” while the United States cautioned against its misuse for censorship and oppression.

Chairing the meeting during Britain’s July presidency of the council, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly stressed the transformative impact of AI on all aspects of human life. He emphasized the urgent need for global governance of such technologies due to their borderless nature. Cleverly highlighted AI’s potential to address climate change and stimulate economies, but he also acknowledged the risks it poses, such as enabling disinformation and aiding state and non-state actors in obtaining weapons.

The council, consisting of 15 members, received briefings from U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Jack Clark, co-founder of the renowned AI startup Anthropic, and Professor Zeng Yi, co-director of the China-UK Research Center for AI Ethics and Governance.

Guterres expressed his concern over both military and non-military applications of AI, which could significantly impact global peace and security. He supported the idea of establishing a new U.N. body to collectively govern AI, taking inspiration from organizations like the International Atomic Energy Agency, the International Civil Aviation Organization, or the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

China’s U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun referred to AI as a “double-edged sword” and advocated for the U.N. to play a central coordinating role in developing guiding principles for AI. He emphasized the significance of human control, regulation, and the balance between scientific progress and security to ensure responsible AI use.

Deputy U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Jeffrey DeLaurentis, stressed the importance of international collaboration on AI and other emerging technologies to address human rights risks that could jeopardize peace and security. He asserted that no member states should employ AI for purposes such as censorship, repression, or disempowerment.

Russia expressed reservations about the Security Council discussing AI, suggesting that the topic requires a more specialized, scientific, and expertise-based discussion that may take several years and is already underway in dedicated platforms.