The growth in artificial intelligence (or at least the hype surrounding it) has accelerated in the past few years, with many seemingly sensible people, from Elon Musk to Stephen Hawking warning of it causing the end of humanity (or variations on the theme). These kind of warnings have prompted many groups to emerge purporting to look into the best way for AI to develop so that society benefits rather than ends up enslaved by the machine.
The United Nations are the latest to setup such an initiative, with the new office aiming to collect information on the way AI is making a dent on the world, with a particular interest in the role AI might have in terms of global security.
“A number of UN organisations operate projects involving robots and AI, such as the group of experts studying the role of autonomous military robots in the realm of conventional weapons. These are temporary measures. Ours is the first permanent UN office on this subject. We are looking at the risks as well as the advantages,” the UN say.
Suffice to say, the office will have a relatively limited scope, as it will begin life with a couple of staff. From this modest beginning however, they do hope to grow, especially as the team aims to get to grips with the rapid pace of development in the field. Indeed, this pace of change is a cause of concern in itself.
“This can make for instability if society does not adapt quickly enough. One of our most important tasks is to set up a network of experts from business, knowledge institutes, civil society organisations and governments. We certainly do not want to plead for a ban or a brake on technologies. We will also explore how new technology can contribute to the sustainable development goals of the UN. For this, we want to start concrete projects. We will not be a talking club,” the team say.
I wouldn’t say I’m all that confident that such a small concern will be able to keep pace with the depth and breadth of changes unfolding in AI at the moment, but I certainly wish them the best of luck.