Who will govern Artificial Intelligence?

It was nearly 66 years ago, 22 distinguished scientists from 10 nations, including the US and the Soviet Union, assembled in Pugwash, Nova Scotia, almost precisely 66 years ago to discuss the hazards of nuclear weapons and to develop diplomatic strategies for resolving international disputes.

Who will govern Artificial Intelligence?
Who will govern Artificial Intelligence?

The Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, also known as the Pugwash Movement, were thus established.”

The movement’s efforts to advance disarmament were effective enough to earn it the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995, even though the world is still far from being free of nuclear weapons.

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The model effectively captures most of history, according to case studies of strategic General purpose technologies created in the United States, notably in the fields of aerospace technology, biotechnology, and cryptography. The model, when applied to AI, also does a good job of capturing current political processes and inspires predictions about how we could expect the politics of AI to develop.

For instance, I believe that AI companies will face greater legal restrictions and pressure to further the objectives of national security and defense. While some will be the target of public criticism and researcher pushback, others may freely and without much resistance sell AI technologies to the government.

The world needs a new Pugwash movement right now, one that is concentrated on AI. Unlike nuclear weapons, artificial intelligence (AI) is both dangerous and promising, and its potential for destruction is still largely theoretical. But humanity faces existential hazards from both technologies. Therefore, it is imperative that top scientists, engineers, philosophers, ethicists, and humanitarians from every continent get together to reach broad consensus on an AI regulatory framework that can garner support at the local, national, and international levels.

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The AI version of the Pugwash Movement would not need to create a framework from start, unlike the original. Numerous projects are already under way to control and govern the growth and use of AI. Examples include the United States’ Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights, the European Union’s Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy AI, the OECD’s AI Principles, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence.

Instead, the new Pugwash movement would place a strong emphasis on bringing together key parties, determining the most effective course of action, and ensuring that it is done widely. Institutions are essential to this endeavor. But what types of organizations are required and realistically able to be built or given authority to quickly address the AI challenge?

In order for the UN, “international financial institutions, regional organizations, trading blocs, and others”—including many nongovernmental organizations—to “work together more closely and more effectively,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has advocated for “networked multilateralism.” However, in order to be successful, such multi-stakeholder networks would need to be created with a clear purpose in mind.

Four such AI-related responsibilities are identified in a document published this month by a group of top AI researchers and professionals from universities and tech firms: disseminating useful technology harmonizing regulation assuring safe development and usage controlling geopolitical risks.

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Naturally, many people place the highest focus on “ensuring safe development and use”. In the same manner that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change tracks the existential risk of climate change, efforts are currently being made to create an organization that will detect and monitor existing and potential problems resulting from AI applications. The IPCC, which is essentially a network of networks that works very well for compiling knowledge from numerous sources, would be expressly patterned on in the Global AI Observatory, which was recently suggested by the Artificial Intelligence and Equality Initiative.

The Internet Society works to create a free, interconnected internet. Web standards are created by the World Wide Web Consortium. The Internet Governance Forum gathers participants to debate pertinent policy topics. Additionally, the unique identifiers of the internet are coordinated and protected by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

The fact that these institutions are run by decentralized, peer-to-peer, self-governing networks that bring together a wide spectrum of stakeholders to jointly develop norms, rules, and implementation guides is crucial to their success.

For instance, ICANN organizes the five regional institutions that control the global IP address allocation as well as dozens of additional self-organized networks that deal with the Domain Name System, which is essential for users to be able to explore the internet. These organizations are equipped to deal with a broad spectrum of policy issues, from the technical to the political.

When Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, the Ukrainian government put pressure on ICANN to yank.ru from the Domain Name System’s root zone, which is overseen by 12 organizations in four nations and coordinated but not under the supervision of ICANN. In the end, the request was turned down by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority.

There would be an abundance of proposals for a Pugwash-style conference on AI to examine as well as partners from the public, private, academic, and corporate sectors. Intellectual heavyweights like the physicist Albert Einstein and philosopher Bertrand Russell issued a call, and the original Pugwash participants answered. Will someone speak up today?

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