Ramu Damodaran, the first Chief of the United Nations Academic Impact:
In the 75th anniversary year of the United Nations (UN), the Boston Global Forum launched its “UN Centennial Initiative”, looking to the world, and its United Nations, in 2045, when the world organization would complete a century of being. Edited by the cerebral and imaginative Tuan Anh Nguyen, “Remaking the World: Toward An Era of Global Enlightenment” is a remarkable sweep of possibilities scarcely foreseen at the time of the UN’s inception, pathways, in his phrase, toward a more humane, peaceful, and secure world, largely by harnessing the potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI), blockchain, and other Digital Age technologies.
As Governor Michael Dukakis notes at the start of the volume, a great deal of thought and experience went into the founding of the UN, and that kind of effort is needed once again as we consider how to enhance this remarkable institution. This brief essay looks at some of the ideas and proposals that the distinguished contributors to this volume have put forward. It does so essentially in their own words although, for smoothness of narrative, the text is not burdened or interrupted by constant quotation marks.
The United Nations came into being as a cerebral, as much as political, innovation; the very first resolution of its General Assembly, in the January of 1946, was on the “problems arising from the discovery of atomic energy.” 75 years later, in the January of 2021, Governor Michael Dukakis announced the “Artificial Intelligence (AI) International Accord Initiative” intended “to stimulate a global conversation that will make sure AI is used responsibly by governments and the private sector around the world.” It is precisely conversations of that nature this volume fosters , conversations that will continue in the quarter century ahead, shaping a world governed by international law and the exercise of international as much as individual, and indeed intellectual, responsibility where the creativity and innovation of the human person work to shape a world worthy of our times just as surely as that world works to foster and further, in the phrase of our Charter, the “dignity and worth“ of that human person.
Ban Ki-moon, the eighth Secretary-General of the United Nations, writes of the advances in technology and science which have opened up wonderful new opportunities, but have also exposed the world to new risks. As our lives have moved increasingly online, so, too, he argues, must our values and principles. The UN’s Member States have been working to develop a global culture of cybersecurity that can fight cybercrime and cyber-attacks while protecting freedoms and sharing the benefits of ICTs and the Internet.
Such a global culture, this volume suggests, can possibly derive from the idea of a “social contract” for the AI age, developed by Michael Dukakis, Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, Vint Cerf, Nazli Choucri, Zlatko Lagumdzija, Tuan Anh Nguyen, Thomas Patterson, Alex Pentland, Marc Rotenberg and David Silbersweig, which notes the shared view that no country will be able to compete or meet the needs of its citizens without increasing its AI capacity. Many countries are now engaged in technology leapfrogging. It is no longer expected, nor necessary, to replicate the stages of economic development of the West—one phase at a time. The Social Contract for the AI Age is designed to establish a common understanding for policy and practices, anchored in general principles to help maximize the “good” and minimize the “bad” associated with AI.
Especially in the 2045 perspective. As Nazli Choucri, professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) notes, at this point governments do not control AI innovation and/or diffusion. Much of the action taken is not in the public sector. Individuals and non-state groups matter and matter a lot. Constituencies are varied and overlapping. Consensus building is essential for society, not only for governments. Any position taken must be in the interest of everyone. Any initiative cannot be seen to dampen innovation or markets. We are now dealing with 21st century realities wherein state coalition building is essential; Dr Choucri suggests that we could even initiate a global competition among young minds for creating the best international agreement on artificial intelligence.
Such an agreement must be premised upon reciprocal confidence between and among parties; in the phrase of Ursula von der Leyen, President of European Commission, “an AI ecosystem of trust.” This is why, she notes, the European Union (EU) proposes to start work on a Transatlantic AI Agreement to set a blueprint for regional and global standards aligned with its values: humanrights, and pluralism, inclusion and the protection of privacy, a transatlantic dialogue on the responsibility of online platforms. Stavros Lambrinidis, the EU Ambassador to United States, expresses the hope that Europe and the United States will work more closely together, continuously and at all levels – with engineers, policymakers, thought leaders, civil society, scientists, and businesses on both sides of the Atlantic – to guide their technological progress and help them improve, evolve, and become more just, equitable, and free societies, to help ensure that AI enhances the human condition and experience for all mankind. And Paul Nemitz, of the Directorate-General for JUSTICE of the European Commission, sees the element of managing power from technology, and controlling power, as one of the key challenges of the future, underlying willingness to come together and look for global principles which help give a frame to this new power over people, over states, over resources, over security.
It is this “new power” that inspires the “AIWS 7- layer model” developed by Michael Dukakis, Nazli Choucri, Allan Cytryn, Alex Jones, Tuan Anh Nguyen, Thomas Patterson, Derek Reveron & David Silbersweig. This model establishes a set of responsible norms and best practices for the development, management, and uses of AI so that this technology is safe, humanistic, and beneficial to society. In developing the Model, the AIWS recognizes that we live in a chaotic world with differing, and sometimes conflicting, goals, values, and concepts of norms. Hence, the Model is aspirational and even idealistic. Nonetheless, it provides a baseline for guiding AI development to ensure positive outcomes and to reduce the risks of pervasive and realistic risks and the related harms that AI could pose to humanity. It enumerates future applications and users of the final Model, including the AIWS International Court, AIWS University, AIWS Healthcare, AIWS Public Transportation, AIWS Policy Makers, and AIWS Political Leaders. These applications will ensure that AIWS norms for AI are adopted broadly and responsibly.
In April 2019, the AIWS-G7 Summit Initiative saw a report on “the next generation democracy” authored by Michael Dukakis, Nguyen Anh Tuan, David Bray, Nazli Choucri, Thomas Creely, Paul Nemitz, Thomas Patterson, David Silbersweig, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, and Kazuo Yano. It proposed an AIWS model which envisions a society where innovation, creativity and dedication, democracy, individual rights and the rule of law are recognized and promoted, where AI is used to assist and improve government decision-making to make progress towards a more socially inclusive and just society in which citizens have a larger voice in their governing and urged G-7 countries to assume leadership on these issues.
This focus on the role of citizens , a role that must be acknowledged as much as exercised, is also reflected in the final report of a World Leadership Alliance-Club de Madrid/ Boston Global Forum Virtual Policy Lab ,held in September 2020, which argues for strengthening an inclusive, accountable, transparent and ethical system centered around human beings, where human rights and a rules-based order are respected, and of fundamental importance of “shared societies” built on the inclusion of all peoples, including diverse identity groups, youth and women, that truly leaves no one behind. Specifically, it made three proposals; to support efforts to transform the UN Secretary General’s Roadmap on Digital Cooperation into a United Nations Convention on Artificial Intelligence to build global consensus and define boundaries on its human-centered, managed use; to promote a Transatlantic Alliance for ensuring our multilateral system is capable of managing the global health crisis and other global challenges; and to build on the common values that unite both sides of the Atlantic, including democracy, the rule of law, social inclusion and trust, equity and fairness, in order to achieve a consensus on governance frameworks for building a humane digital future for all.
This democratic imperative is echoed by Andreas Norlén, Speaker of the Swedish Parliament, who writes, in the context of the 2018 parliamentary elections in Sweden, that, much to surprise, no significant external organized hostile influence operations were detected and suggests that the most important advice on how to protect oneself from cyber-attacks, disinformation and organized hostile influence is public awareness. As long as the public is aware that they run the risk of falling victim to those kinds of attacks, much has been won.
It is that idea, of an award and informed public, that informs the idea put forth by Nguyen Anh Tuan, Boston Global Forum CEO and Thomas Patterson, Harvard University Professor that a starting point in securing international agreement on a AIWS could be the world’s democracies. Their values and legal systems are most closely aligned with what the AI Social Contract would require of governments. They are also the nations that are most likely to regulate business entities in the public interest and to be receptive to the role that civil society organizations can play in promoting citizen participation and digital access. They go on to suggest that the involvement of international organizations, and of the United Nations particularly, is essential. An ideal arrangement would be a UN Convention on AI that would obligate governments to comply with international rules and norms aligned with a AIIA. To monitor and assist with compliance, they propose that the UN could establish a specialized UN agency on AI.
The AIWS Report about AI Ethics (December 2018), authored by Michael Dukakis, Nguyen Anh Tuan, Thomas Patterson, Thomas Creely, Nazli Choucri, Paul Nemitz, Derek Reveron, Hiroshi Ishiguro, Eliot Weinman, and Kazuo Yano, seeks to make a contribution to the notion of dealing with AI international problems through the UN, since it is the UN which plays a key role in regulating the actions of governments as well as people towards the aim of maintaining international peace and security and promoting co-operation between countries. Alex Pentland, MIT Professor, who was part of the UN Secretary General’s “data revolution” team during the drafting of the Sustainable Development Goals, contends from published studies that the factors that we usually think about — investment, education, infrastructure, institutions — may not be the direct cause of prosperity. Instead they may make a difference primarily because they help or hinder the search for new opportunities. The fundamental driver of progress in society may be the search for new opportunities, and is aided by people’s skills or capital investment. Modernizing and digitizing governance of national, international, and commercial interactions to become more efficient, transparent, and inclusive is a key global priority, and dozens of efforts to already underway. However, current efforts are mostly piecemeal and incremental. This therefore is, he suggests, a natural topic for the UN and its members.
Žaneta Ozoliņa, University of Latvia Professor, and Didzis Kļaviņš, University of Latvia Senior Researcher, argue that while the majority of governments are lagging behind global companies on AI, the UN has moral obligation to make the world prosperous and secure by launching a comprehensive AI framework. Diplomacy can play a masterful role as a mediator to help find a compromise between the parties involved. Keeping in mind that AI-powered technologies have great potential to rearrange winners and losers in global markets, and thus affect the balance of power in world politics, the diplomatic institutions and diplomatic practices require a holistic assessment and adaptation road-map in this regard.
As Vint Cerf, Google Vice president and Chief Internet evangelist, writes, we have to figure out what the international agreements are going to be, not only to deal with the abuses of the internet and its applications, but also the potential abuses of machine learning. And that is going to require some deep thought and some deep understanding and some dependence on technologists who are much smarter than many of us are about how those technologies could be abused and what we can do to both detect and defend against that.
Judea Pearl, UCLA Professor, writes of the imperative that machine learning researchers, regardless of the methods they deploy for data fitting, be versed in user-friendly language, its grammar, its universal laws and the way humans interpret or misinterpret the functions that machine learning algorithms discover.
It is hard to find a needle in a haystack, it is much harder if you haven’t seen a needle before. The module we are using for causal inference gives us a picture of what the needle looks like and what you can do once you find one.
Zlatko Lagumdzija, former Prime Minister of Bosnia-Herzegovina, offers a down to earth metaphor, writing that our generation’s Moonshot is not going to Mars or living on the Moon but having a shared future in shared societies, prosperity and sustainable development on Earth while avoiding and managing nuclear threats, avoiding climate change and mastering technological disruption and AI. Today it is not only that we are incomparably more technologically powerful but economically as well. Our generation Mission Moonshot – Living on Planet Earth – is not possible only because we have technological or economic power, but it requires that the World is being more defined by the “Golden” word of our future – Shared.
A sharing that underlies the caution expressed by Vaira Vīķe-Freiberg, former President of Latvia, that we, as a species, do not lose all the advantages that millions of years of evolution have left as our heritage, whether through inertia, laziness or overweening pride and arrogance. And, while we are at it, she notes, we also have to think of preserving our planet in a shape where it continues to be fit for human habitation. The planet will not care whether its dominant species are humans, salamanders or cockroaches. We are the ones who do care. Or should.
As Nguyen Anh Tuan says in his concluding contribution, the AIWS Value System is innovative and, as such, untested for its utility. One test of the concept will be creating the AIWS City, which will be a virtual digital city dedicated to promoting the values associated with AIWS, envisioned as a community of scholars, innovators, leaders, and citizens dedicated to fostering thought, creativity, and ethical behavior.