UN Adopts Global AI Resolution Backed by U.S., 122 Others

The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday adopted a U.S.-led resolution to promote “safe, secure and trustworthy” artificial intelligence systems and their sustainable development for the benefit of all. The non-binding proposal, which was adopted without a formal vote, drew support from more than 122 co-sponsors, including China and India. It emphasizes “the respect, protection and promotion of human rights in the design, development, deployment and use” of responsible and inclusive AI. “The same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, including throughout the life cycle of artificial intelligence systems,” the resolution affirms.

The Assembly urged “all States, the private sector, civil society, research organizations and the media, to develop and support regulatory and governance approaches and frameworks related to safe, secure and trustworthy use of AI,” the body said in a news release, going on to recognize the “digital divide” by which “varying levels of technological development, between and within countries,” create “unique challenges in keeping up with the rapid pace of innovation.”

Bloomberg calls the move “one of the most high-profile efforts yet to establish global standards for the rapidly rising disruptive technology.”

At the same time, the global benchmark underscores “a lack of strong regulations at home despite calls for action by lawmakers and businesses, including Open AI,” Bloomberg adds, noting that President Biden “highlighted the need to regulate AI in a speech before the General Assembly in New York in September,” and made it “a top agenda item when he met China’s leader Xi Jinping in November.”

While Biden in October signed an executive order designed to “contain the risks of AI,” federal legislators have yet to send any related law to his desk, though “more than 30 AI-focused bills have been introduced in this Congress,” according to law firm Covington.

Meanwhile, this month the European Union took the lead, passing the world’s first comprehensive AI legal framework, the Artificial Intelligence Act. Last summer, China implemented some AI regulations.

The resolution, “Seizing the Opportunities of Safe, Secure and Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence Systems for Sustainable Development,” is the result of three months of negotiations, Ars Technica points out, adding that being non-binding, it is “essentially toothless.” Still, AT says that “the stakeholders involved seem pleased at the level of international cooperation.”

“We’re sailing in choppy waters with the fast-changing technology, which means that it’s more important than ever to steer by the light of our values,” a senior U.S. administration official told Reuters, which notes that in November, the U.S., Britain and more than a dozen other countries signed the Bletchley Declaration, “the first detailed international agreement on how to keep artificial intelligence safe from rogue actors, pushing for companies to create AI systems that are ‘secure by design.’”

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