Both sets of respondents to the Global Risks Perception Survey (a component of the 2020 Global Risks Report, presented by the World Economic Forum and Marsh & McLennan) — the multistakeholder community and the Global Shapers — identify cyber-related issues, such as cyberattacks and data fraud or theft, within the list of top 10 long-term risks. Indeed, while the growth of digitalization offers opportunities that can best be captured through coordinated approaches among stakeholders, it also creates areas in need of coordinated solutions.
One such area is artificial intelligence (AI). According to the United Nations’ (UN) International Telecommunication Union, it will take “massive interdisciplinary collaboration” to unlock AI’s potential. (1) But because AI can also bring significant risk, multilateral cooperation is needed to address challenges such as security, verification, “deepfake” videos, mass surveillance and advanced weaponry.
Despite the need for a common set of global protocols, AI has become a new frontier for competitive geopolitics. In 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin said, “Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.” (2) China has strongly encouraged companies to invest in AI, making it a national security priority (3) ; AI is a pillar of its current five-year plan (2016–2020) for science and technology development and its “made in China 2025” industrial plan. (4) In the United States, the Defense Department’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center recently requested that its budget be tripled to USD 268 million (5), citing the rapid development of AI capabilities by China and Russia as a reason for urgency.
There is some progress. Already, stakeholders are coming together to design shared protocols for AI. The World Economic Forum’s Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution has worked with the government of the United Kingdom to formulate guidelines for more ethical and efficient procurement of AI. These guidelines will be piloted in countries across Europe, the Middle East and Latin America. And, in May 2019, the OECD’s 36 member states adopted Principles on AI — the first common set of principles that governments have adopted — to promote AI “that is innovative and trustworthy and that respects human rights and democratic values.” (6) However, challenges remain. Eleonore Pauwels of the United Nations University Centre for Policy Research warns that “the resurgence of nationalist agendas across the world may point to a dwindling capacity of the multilateral system to play a meaningful role in the global governance of AI.” (7)
1. ITU (International Telecommunication Union). 2017. AI for Good Global Summit: Report. June 2017. International Telecommunication Union. https://www.itu.int/en/ITU-T/AI/ Documents/Report/AI_for_Good_Global_ Summit_Report_2017.pdf
2. Maggio, E. 2017. “Putin Believes that Whatever Country Has the Best AI Will Be ‘the Ruler of the World’”. Business Insider. 4 September 2017. https://www. businessinsider.com/putin-believes-countrywith-best-ai-ruler-of-the-world-20179?r=US&IR=T
3. Allen, G. C. 2019. Understanding China’s AI Strategy: Clues to Chinese Strategic Thinking on Artificial Intelligence and National Security. Washington, DC: Center for a New American Security. https://s3.amazonaws.com/files. cnas.org/documents/CNAS-UnderstandingChinas-AI-Strategy-Gregory-C.-AllenFINAL-2.15.19.pdf?mtime=20190215104041
4. Dai, S. and A. Shen. 2018. “‘Made in China 2025’: China Has a Competitive AI Game Plan But Success Will Need Cooperation”. South China Morning Post. 1 October 2018. https://www.scmp.com/tech/article/2166177/ made-china-2025-china-has-competitive-aigame-plan-success-will-need
5. Ashizuka, T. 2019. “Pentagon Seeks to Triple AI Warfare Budget to Meet China’s Rise”. Nikkei Asian Review. 4 October 2019. https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/AerospaceDefense/Pentagon-seeks-to-triple-AIwarfare-budget-to-meet-China-s-rise
6. OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development). “OECD Principles on AI”. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Going Digital Project. http://www.oecd.org/going-digital/ai/ principles/
7. Pauwels, E. 2018. “The New Geopolitics of Artificial Intelligence”. 15 October 2018. World Economic Forum. https://www.weforum.org/ agenda/2018/10/artificial-intelligence-ai-newgeopolitics-un/