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AI Poses Existential Threat to Humanity: UN Security Council Meeting

Updated: Jan 5

The United Nations Security Council, led by the United Kingdom, addresses the potential risks and benefits of artificial intelligence, including concerns about autonomous weapons and nuclear weapon control.

United Kingdom Ambassador to the United Nations
Credit: AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura

The U.N. Security Council, under the UK presidency, has scheduled an unprecedented meeting on July 18 to examine the implications of artificial intelligence (AI) for international peace and security. This gathering aims to explore the vast potential AI offers while acknowledging the significant risks it poses, such as its application in autonomous weaponry and the control of nuclear weapons.

Ambassador Barbara Woodward of the United Kingdom, announcing the meeting, emphasised the urgency of managing the risks associated with advanced AI. The event will feature briefings by global AI experts and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who recently expressed deep concerns about the deafening alarm bells sounded by AI's developers and scientists. Guterres emphasised that AI poses an existential threat to humanity, comparable to the risks of nuclear war. To address these concerns, he revealed plans to establish an advisory board on artificial intelligence in September, aiming to formulate effective initiatives for the U.N.

Guterres also expressed openness to the creation of a specialised U.N. agency on AI, drawing inspiration from the International Atomic Energy Agency as a knowledge-based entity with regulatory powers. Ambassador Woodward highlighted the importance of a multilateral approach to harness the immense opportunities of AI while managing its associated risks effectively. Emphasising the need for a global effort, she outlined AI's potential to enhance U.N. development programs, improve humanitarian aid operations, support peacekeeping initiatives, and aid in conflict prevention through data collection and analysis. She also highlighted AI's potential to bridge the gap between developing and developed countries.

Addressing the security concerns, Woodward stressed that serious considerations must be given to the risks posed by AI. In Europe, significant efforts have already been made to regulate artificial intelligence, particularly with the emergence of advanced AI systems capable of generating human-like text, images, video, and audio. EU lawmakers recently approved comprehensive rules on AI, setting a global precedent in AI regulation.

Recognising the need for government intervention, Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, expressed the importance of mitigating the risks associated with increasingly powerful AI systems. Altman suggested the establishment of a U.S. or global agency that would grant licenses for the use of the most advanced AI systems while ensuring compliance with safety standards.

The upcoming Security Council meeting, chaired by UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, provides an opportunity for the 15 council members to hear expert perspectives on AI, a rapidly developing technology. This gathering will spark discussions on the implications of AI for global peace and security.

Looking ahead, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced that the UK will host an AI summit later this year, serving as a platform for a comprehensive global dialogue on the subject.

  • The UN Security Council, led by the UK, addresses the potential threats and benefits of artificial intelligence.

  • The meeting explores AI's impact on international peace and security, including concerns about autonomous weapons and nuclear weapon control.

  • Secretary-General Antonio Guterres emphasises the need for action, considering AI as an existential threat.

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