3 December 2018

UN hosts seminar on the new geopolitics of artificial intelligence

3 December 2018 – The Policy and Mediation Division of the Department of Political Affairs at the United Nations hosted a seminar on the New Geopolitics of Artificial Intelligence presented by Eleonore Pauwels. Ms. Pauwels specializes in artificial intelligence (AI) research at the United Nations University’s Centre for Policy Research and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The discussion focused on the need for prudent global governance of artificial intelligence.

Ms. Pauwels emphasized the current trust-deficit disorder the international community feels toward artificial intelligence, mainly due to its potential risks. This deficit could widen if innovations in AI are not matched with international and national governance.

AI technologies could be used to reduce civilian casualties during war, prevent human trafficking, address food insecurity, improve modern medicine, address humanitarian crises, and much more. Conversely, Ms. Pauwels explained that international actors could utilize AI technology for adverse purposes by endangering civilians through misinformation, hacking AI technology for pathogen or toxin attacks, inciting violence, attacking supply chains, and conducting other nefarious actions.

Another key takeaway from Ms. Pauwels’ lecture was AI’s potential use in fake news campaigns. Deepfake videos, sounds, and photos can mimic empirical events and real people, which could make it extremely challenging to discern whether news is authentic or fake.

Ms. Pauwels pointed out that an adversary attempting to fabricate a story could create a video of a political candidate taking a bribe through Deepfake technology. Additionally, the social media accounts of political actors could be hacked by AI, potentially triggering dangerous events. Also, AI could increase the use of personalized disinformation campaigns to influence electorates.

Next, Ms. Pauwels addressed the need to ensure privacy as AI’s ability to gather data proliferates across sprawling geopolitical landscapes. These concerns include health, financial, genetic, biological, behavioral, and all other data derived from AI. Ms. Pauwels fears that AI and data gathering could increase inequality among countries, and warned that strategic cyber-colonization could occur once enough data is gathered from large populations within targetted regions.

In response, the United Nations University launched the “AI and Global Governance Platform” to provide university researchers, international organizations, policymakers, private sector workers, and the public sector with a platform to collaborate on the governance of AI. This initiative helps all stakeholders narrow the trust deficit towards AI and explore sound policy options for a safer high-tech future. Ms. Pauwels made it clear that the expansive risks of AI will require robust governance in order to safeguard national and international stability.

Overall, Ms. Pauwels' discussion highlights the importance of AI governance. The more inclusive, diverse, and prudent collaboration among diverse stakeholders, the better AI will be implemented around the world.