In the wake of over 1000 tech workers’ appeals for a halt in the training of the most powerful AI systems, including the likes of ChatGPT, UNESCO has taken a stand. The organization is urging countries worldwide to expedite the implementation of its recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence. This universally accepted framework, unanimously adopted by UNESCO’s 193 Member States, serves as a vital safeguard in the AI landscape.
Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO’s Director-General, voiced her thoughts: “The world needs stronger ethical rules for artificial intelligence: this is the challenge of our time. UNESCO’s Recommendation on the ethics of AI sets the appropriate normative framework. Our Member States all endorsed this recommendation in November 2021. It is high time to implement the strategies and regulations at the national level. We have to walk the talk and ensure we deliver on the Recommendation’s objectives.”
As the first global framework for AI ethics, UNESCO’s recommendation paves the way for countries to maximize AI’s potential benefits while mitigating its inherent risks. The recommendation contains not only values and principles but also detailed policy recommendations covering all relevant areas.
UNESCO is particularly concerned about the ethical issues arising from AI innovations, such as discrimination and stereotyping, gender inequality, combating disinformation, the right to privacy, protection of personal data, and human and environmental rights. The organization asserts that industry self-regulation falls short in preventing these ethical harms. As a result, the recommendation offers the necessary tools to guarantee that AI developments comply with the rule of law, steer clear of causing harm, and establish accountability and redress mechanisms when harm does occur.
At the heart of UNESCO’s guidance to Member States is the assessment tool, which helps countries evaluate the competencies and skills needed in the workforce for robust AI sector regulation. The recommendation also requires that States regularly report on their progress and practices in AI, particularly by submitting a periodic report every four years.
So far, over 40 countries from all corners of the globe have teamed up with UNESCO to create national AI checks and balances based on the recommendation. UNESCO encourages all countries to join this movement, striving to construct ethical AI together. A progress report on this endeavor will be presented at the UNESCO Global Forum on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence in Slovenia in December 2023.