UN Agencies Warned of Dangers, Need to Foster AI for Global Good
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
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The first UN Centre for Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotics will be located in The Hague, The Netherlands.

In an open letter to the UN, 115 AI industry leaders, commended the establishment of the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS).

Over 20 UN agencies in partnership with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the non-profit Xprize, organized the ‘AI for Good Global Summit' in Geneva, Switzerland.

During the keynote speech at Innovation Labs World on 26 September in Singapore, Pedro Conceição, Director for Strategic Policy, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, UNDP, discussed how AI is supporting SDG achievement.

26 September 2017: Artificial intelligence (AI) can enable the achievement of global development goals. However, computer-based technologies, which simulate human intelligence, also present challenges that may work against human well-being, safety and security. The UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) highlighted this duality with the establishment of its Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. Four months prior, over 20 UN agencies and partners met to discuss how AI could be used to support achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

On 7 September 2017, the Director of UNICRI, Cindy Smith, and the Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the International Organizations, Johan van der Werff, signed a Host Country Agreement for the establishment of the first UN Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. The Centre will be located in The Hague, The Netherlands, and its establishment follows the an UNICRI programme on Robotics and AI that launched in 2014 to advance discourse on robotics and AI governance, with a view to addressing challenges for the greater good. The Centre will: contribute to knowledge sharing, training and awareness-raising; monitor global developments; support an international network and contribute to policy-making; and build consensus among concerned communities and stakeholders. [UNICRI Press Release]

The Establishment of the Centre comes before the first meeting of the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS), which will meet from 13-17 November 2017 and be chaired by Ambassador Amandeep Singh Gill of India. The 2016 Fifth Review Conference decided to establish the GGE. In an open letter to the UN, 115 AI industry leaders, including DeepMind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman and Elon Musk, founder, CEO and CTO of SpaceX, commended the GGE establishment and said that lethal autonomous weapons, once developed, “will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend.” [An Open Letter to the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons] [UNODA] [2017 GGE Meeting]

A few months prior, over 20 UN agencies in partnership with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the non-profit Xprize organized the ‘AI for Good Global Summit.’ Held in Geneva, Switzerland from 7-9 June, the Summit advocated for the advancement and democratization of AI solutions that “can address specific global challenges related to poverty, hunger, health, education, the environment, and others.” The event discussed the ethical, technical, societal and policy issues related to AI and promoted cooperation and support for AI innovation. [AI for Global Good Summit]

Most recently, during the keynote speech at Innovation Labs World on 26 September in Singapore, Pedro Conceição, Director for Strategic Policy, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, UNDP, discussed how AI is already supporting SDG achievement. He described how an AI-driven tool determines alignment between government budgets and plans and the SDGs, a process that once took weeks, reduced to hours. He also encouraged application of AI to meet other priorities, such as in agriculture and energy, through an inclusive approach that can be embraced by the people it is meant to help. [Innovation Labs World] [Interview with Pedro Conceição]

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