United Nations adopts U.S.-led resolution to safely develop AI

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The United Nations on Thursday unanimously adopted a resolution to promote the safe and trustworthy development of artificial intelligence, one of the most expansive efforts to date to reach international alignment on the technology.

The United States spearheaded the initiative, spending the last three months negotiating with U.N. member nations. In more than 40 hours of sessions, U.S. officials had “lots of heated conversations” about the contents of the resolution with U.S. adversaries, including Russia and China, according to a senior Biden administration official, who briefed reporters on the private negotiations on the condition of anonymity.

The United Nations’ decision to unanimously adopt the resolution underscores how artificial intelligence “transcended usual geopolitical divisions,” the official said.

“We did generally include most of their suggested edits,” the official said, referring to Russia, China and Cuba.

The resolution seeks to assert U.S. leadership in the development of AI on the global stage, as the Biden administration increasingly attempts to expand its influence in the intergovernmental body. The European Union and other states are racing ahead of U.S. legislators, who remain in the early stages of crafting AI legislation.

The resolution seeks to promote human rights. However, there are no enforcement mechanisms if countries do not abide by the resolution, and China is already pushing forward with regulations that would require generative AI systems similar to ChatGPT to “adhere to the core socialist values.”

The broad agreement builds on past international AI agreements. Last year, the United States, China, the European Union, Britain and more than 20 other countries signed onto the so-called Bletchley Declaration, which sought to avoid the existential safety risks of the technology and promote international cooperation on research. However, following criticism that developing nations had been left out of other international AI agreements, the Biden administration pursued a new agreement with the United Nations.

The U.N. resolution comes as nations take divergent paths on regulating AI, following the explosive popularity of ChatGPT and other generative AI tools that can create photos and videos. The European Parliament this month voted to approve Europe’s AI Act, giving final approval to a law that requires AI developers to disclose data and conduct rigorous testing. President Biden last year signed an AI executive order, but there is no clear path for comprehensive AI legislation in the U.S. Congress.

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