The New Geopolitics of Converging Risks: The UN and Prevention in the Era of AI

Research & Publications | May 2, 2019 |

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United Nations in the Era of AI

We are entering an era of hybrid opportunities and threats generated by the combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and other powerful dual-use technologies, with implications for nearly every aspect of daily lives. The convergence of AI and affective computing, cyber and biotechnologies, robotics and additive manufacturing raises complex global implications that are poorly understood, leaving the multilateral system with limited tools to anticipate and prevent emerging risks. At the same time, the spread of AI convergence across a wide range of States, non-State and transnational actors and entities means that the challenges of tomorrow must be addressed collectively and innovatively.

How can the multilateral system better understand and anticipate risks as AI convergence with dual-use technologies intrudes increasingly into the political, social, economic, and security spheres, creating new potential for systemic vulnerabilities and distributive inequalities? How can actors within the multilateral system build better anticipation and prevention capacities in the face of these risks?

This report is the first step in developing a common understanding of the emerging impacts of AI convergence on the United Nations’ prevention agenda. It provides: an analysis of current trends in AI convergence; scenarios that examine emerging opportunities and risks; principles to guide how innovation should be deployed responsibly by actors in the multilateral system; and a recommendation for a foresight capacity housed within the UN and shared across key communities.

Eleonore Pauwels proposes a path for the UN to build, guide and lead a Global Foresight Observatory for AI Convergence. The Observatory would be a constellation of key public and private sector stakeholders convened by a strategic foresight team within the UN to implement a shared foresight methodology. The Observatory would equip the UN to articulate tailored and robust scenarios from which innovative strategies can emerge; map and involve key stakeholders that reflect the unique ways in which technologies are converging; and develop coherent and responsible approaches to leverage innovation and technology for prevention.

Download the report.