AI ‘race against time’, says UN


Humanity is engaged in a race against time to harness the enormous power of artificial intelligence for the benefit of all while avoiding dire risks, a senior UN official said on Thursday.

“We have let the genie out of the bottle,” said Doreen Bogdan-Martin, head of the United Nations’ International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

“We are in a race against time,” she added during a two-day AI for Good world summit in Geneva. “Recent developments in AI are nothing short of extraordinary.”

The thousands of conference attendees heard how advances in generative AI are already accelerating efforts to solve some of the world’s worst problems, such as climate change, hunger and social care.

“I believe we have an opportunity, which only happens once in a generation, to lead AI to the benefit of everyone in the world,” Bogdan-Martin said in an email to AFP before the summit.

However, on Thursday she lamented the fact that one third of humanity is still offline and “being completely excluded from the AI ​​revolution without a voice”. “This digital and technological divide is no longer acceptable.”

She pointed out that AI has “enormous possibilities for good and for bad” and emphasized that it is essential that “AI systems are made safe”.

She said it was especially important now, as “2024 is the biggest election year ever in history” with elections in numerous countries, including the US.

“With the rise of sophisticated deep-fake disinformation campaigns, this is also the most controversial one. The abuse of AI not only threatens democracy, it is also a danger to young people’s mental health and can put cyber security under suspicion.”

In a speech this week during a separate event focusing on AI governance, the ITU chief said “the power of AI is concentrated in the hands of too few people”.

Bogdan-Martin applauds the fact that governments and others have also become more focused on the regulation and protection around the use of AI.

For example, the European Union announced on Wednesday the establishment of an AI office to regulate artificial intelligence under new legislation.

“It is our responsibility to write the next chapter in the wonderful story of humanity and technology, and to make it safe, to make it inclusive and to make it sustainable,” said Bogdan-Martin.