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First UN meeting on the threats of artificial intelligence to be held in the UK

Image credit: Foto 210141274 / Artificial © Tanaonte |

The July 18 meeting will see global leaders discussing the potential threats of artificial intelligence (AI) to international peace and security.

The United Nations Security Council meeting will be held in the United Kingdom, and it has been presented as a centrepiece of the UK's presidency of the council. 

The summit will focus on the major risks that would arise from governments using AI to develop autonomous weapons or control nuclear weapons. With this goal, it will include briefings by international AI experts and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Guterres has been known for speaking up against the risks of new technologies such as AI and has revealed plans to appoint a scientific advisory board with expertise in this area. He also said he would react favourably to the creation of a new UN agency on AI with some regulatory powers, similar to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

“These scientists and experts have called on the world to act, declaring AI an existential threat to humanity on a par with the risk of nuclear war,” he said last month.

The meeting was announced by the UK's ambassador to the UN, Dame Barbara Woodward, who said the country wants to encourage “a multilateral approach to managing both the huge opportunities and the risks that artificial intelligence holds for all of us”, stressing that “this is going to take a global effort”.

Woodward cited AI’s potential to help UN development programmes, improve humanitarian aid operations, assist peacekeeping operations and support conflict prevention, including by collecting and analysing data.

“It could potentially help us close the gap between developing countries and developed countries,” she added.

Since becoming Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak has been pushing for a leadership position in the global effort to regulate AI tools. During a visit to the US last month, Sunak claimed the UK was the “natural place” to lead the conversation on AI and announced that Britain will host the first major global summit on AI safety this autumn. 

The statement followed a warning from the Centre for AI Safety, whose experts stated that “mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war”.

The AI sector already contributes £3.7bn to the UK economy and employs 50,000 people across the country, according to official figures. 

The country has already taken steps towards developing ‘light touch’ regulatory frameworks regarding the safe use of AI. This includes the creation of a £100m Foundation Model Taskforce, modelled after the Covid-19 Vaccine Taskforce, which will focus on the research and development of “safe and reliable” foundational models, a type of AI used by chatbots such as ChatGPT

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