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The MENA Blog

United Nations Creates Artificial Intelligence Advisory Team



The United Nations (UN) has announced the formation of a multi-disciplinary AI advisory team. This timely initiative is driven by the global organisation's commitment to a "globally inclusive" approach towards the governance of artificial intelligence (AI). With rapid advancements in AI and its widespread applications, there's a growing concern about potential risks associated with its misuse.


UN Secretary-General António Guterres highlighted the makeup of the advisory body, which boasts 39 members from various sectors. This includes voices from government bodies, private entities, and the academic world. Notable representatives are from the Singapore government, Spain's digitalisation office, tech giants like Sony Group and OpenAI, and esteemed academic institutions like Stanford University and China University of Political Science and Law.


Mr. Guterres emphasized the transformative potential of AI, pointing to innovations like chatbots, voice cloning, and image generators. He believes AI can revolutionise public health, education, and crisis management, especially in developing economies. "AI offers an unprecedented chance for developing countries to bypass outdated technologies, bringing crucial services straight to the masses," Guterres remarked.


However, he also drew attention to the challenges. The concentrated expertise in a few countries and companies can exacerbate global inequalities. Moreover, there's a looming danger of AI reinforcing biases, undermining privacy, and violating human rights.


To combat these issues, the UN's advisory team will spearhead discussions on AI governance, aiming to integrate various ongoing AI governance initiatives. The team's mission aligns with the UN Charter's values, emphasising inclusivity. By the end of this year, the UN anticipates preliminary recommendations in areas like AI governance and the realisation of sustainability goals.


Despite these efforts, a recent survey by tech consultancy Thoughtworks reveals a startling mistrust among consumers regarding businesses' use of AI. A significant 56% of the 10,000 respondents across markets like Australia, Singapore, India, the UK, the US, and Germany are skeptical about companies adhering to AI regulations.


This distrust prevails even though 90% of these consumers believe in the necessity of government regulations for AI. Ethical concerns are rampant, with 93% apprehensive about the ethical deployment of AI. Data privacy is another major area of concern, with 91% wary of how their data is handled, accessed, and distributed.

Mike Mason, Thoughtworks' Chief AI Officer, sheds light on these concerns, noting that consumers recognize the potential misuse of AI technology. He highlights the common fears, such as privacy breaches, job losses, and deteriorating customer experiences. Mason stresses the need for transparency in the use of generative AI technology by businesses. He concludes by urging companies to harness AI responsibly, capitalizing on the enthusiasm consumers have for the technology, rather than solely depending on regulations.


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