Guterres launches panel on AI headed by ex-Indian diplomat

United Nations: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has created a high-level advisory panel headed by a former Indian diplomat to meet the challenges of a world hurtling into the unknowns of artificial intelligence (AI).

“I have called for a global, multidisciplinary, multistakeholder conversation on the governance of AI so that its benefits to humanity – all of humanity – are maximised, and the risks contained are diminished and the panel is the starting point,” he said on Thursday.

Amandeep Singh, the Secretary-General’s envoy on technology and an under-secretary-general, will lead the panel.

As a member of the Indian Foreign Service, Gill was the permanent representative to the UN Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.

Giving an example of “the incredible possibilities – and the potential dangers – of AI”, Guterres said that an AI app gave him “the surreal experience of watching myself deliver a speech in flawless Chinese, despite the fact that I do not speak Chinese and the lips movement corresponded exactly to what I was saying”.

“Without entering into a host of doomsday scenarios, it is already clear that the malicious use of AI could undermine trust in institutions, weaken social cohesion, and threaten democracy itself,” he said.

At the same time, “in our challenging times, AI could power extraordinary progress for humanity”, the UN chief noted.

“The transformative potential of AI for good is difficult even to grasp,” Guterres said.

The Secretary-General added that he has charged the panel with reporting by the end of the year on three areas: the international governance of artificial intelligence; a shared understanding of risks and challenges, and using it to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals that cover the gamut from agriculture; and education to health and justice.

Gill said that the panel “will bring together expertise from around the world from different disciplines, latest expertise on the direction of the technology and its impact on our societies, on our economies and on our politics”.

“The body will look at what is being done today in response to these emerging challenges and what is missing, what are the gaps and how the existing efforts can be better networked together so that we have a more effective governance response.”

Guterres cast a wide net for talent to be on the panel, which includes government officials and religious leaders, academics and activists, and business figures from technology companies like Google and Sony, drawn from every continent.

Sharad Sharma, co-founder iSPIRT Foundation, and Nazneen Rajani, lead researcher at Hugging Face, from India are on the panel.

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