A report has been published recently advocating the global governance of Artificial Intelligence. That provokes two questions:
Should the governance of AI be global?
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has immense value to offer to humanity, such as improved efficiency, new capabilities, and solutions to complex problems. A fast-growing AI industry is developing, applying AI to every sector of our economy. AI is often able to reduce costs, render a service more effective or produce a design more quickly. As its capabilities continue to grow, it may prove as transformative as the proliferation of electrification and cheap motive power was in the 20th century, ushering in an era of abundance, longer and healthier lives and a greater realisation of human rights.
However, AI also brings new problems and threats. This will necessitate the creation of governing institutions, as the impact of AI will be experienced in every country in the world. Governance needs to be effective, timely and global. As in many fields of human endeavour, issues that are not bounded by geography or jurisdiction require global responses.
Looking a bit further into the future there are a number of risks that could be posed by an ever expanding, ever more intelligent AI which could define the future of humanity. It is inconceivable that this technology, with such tremendous transformative power for good and ill should not be governed globally.
In the polls carried out at the recent international Athens Round-table on AI and the Rule of Law, it was clear that the relatively expert audience thought that the governance of AI should be global. There is a need for a more informed debate on the subject, so that the wider public can be made aware of the issues at stake.
Is that where we are heading?
In 1889, there was a land rush in Oklahoma: at mid-day on April 22nd, some 10,000 covered wagons were lined up to race across the prairie to claim as much as they could of the virgin territory. In the race to claim the governance of AI leadership, there are not 10,000 international organisations competing, but under starter’s orders there are clearly the Council of Europe and its Ad Hoc Committee on Artificial Intelligence (CAHAI), the European Union and UNESCO - with the OECD, the Global Partnership for Artificial Intelligence (GPAI) and the IEEE close behind.
The covered wagons were all present at the Athens Roundtable: their spokes-persons stressed their close collaboration with each other, but each of the main contenders made sure that they seized the opportunity to make a strong pitch for their own organisation’s approach.
Each one has something tangible and distinctive to offer. For instance:
At the Athens Round-Table, notable by its absence was China. Speakers acknowledged the strong position that China holds within the AI arena and clearly any meaningful global governance would require China’s close involvement.
A key question is which of these contenders offers the best path to an effective and timely global governance of AI? There is no simple answer to that question. But there is another question. Is there another, better way?
The next few months
Key decisions are due to be made in the coming months with regard to AI regulation. On December 15th / 17th, representatives of the forty-seven Council of Europe States along with their fellow CAHAI members will review the feasibility study and decide how to proceed. In the first quarter of 2021, we are told to expect EU legislation on AI on the table for consideration by the European Parliament.
No easy solutions, but is it not time to agree that the goal should be global governance of AI – and the sooner the better? Do the contenders all support the aim of effective and timely global governance for AI? Will the decisions made in December 2020 and Q1 2021 be made with a framework of achieving effective global governance of AI as quickly as possible?
A fuller discussion of the arguments for the global governance on AI, together with a proposed roadmap of how to get there, is available in the WFM / OWT report.
 Effective, Timely and Global – the urgent need for good Global Governance of AI produced by the Transnational Working Group on AI of the World Federalist Movement (WFM), and the One World Trust (OWT).