How will artificial intelligence impact the future, and what benefits and risks does AI hold for democracy, conflict, and development? With ChatGPT now reaching 100 million users in just two months, African representatives participated this week in a United Nations Security Council session meant to encourage an informed response to AI technology.
Ghanaian ambassador Harold Adlai Agyeman noted that in Libya, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) successfully used AI to gauge reaction to policies in service to promoting peace. AI can also serve as a useful early warning tool, but it presents the risk of authoritarian government and advanced weaponry in conflict.
“We are approaching a point where digital machines can now complete a task that for the majority of human existence was exclusively within the realm of human intelligence,” said Manuel Gonçalves, the deputy foreign minister for Mozambique. AI has transformational power but also presents ethical challenges that have not yet been met.
There is potential for catastrophic outcomes, he said, especially in terms of disinformation and the spread of conspiracy theories that can undermine governments and manipulate public opinion. Mozambique recognizes the importance of adopting a balanced approach toward AI, he said.
Lilly Stella Ngyema Ndong of Gabon said AI is used to make UN peacekeeping missions more effective. It boosts capacity in civilian protection and reconstruction projects. She stressed the need for local communities to take an ownership role in the technologies that are being used in their own lives.
This week’s meeting was the first-ever formal UN session on the AI issue. Other guests included Jack Clark, co-founder of the AI safety and research firm Anthropic.
“We cannot leave the development of artificial intelligence solely to private sector actors,” Clark said. “The governments of the world must come together, develop state capacity and make the development of powerful AI systems a shared endeavour across all parts of society, rather than one dictated solely by a small number of firms competing with one another in the marketplace.”
Image: UN Security Council