Jul 7, 2023 Article

Achieving an International Framework for the Governance of AI

The rapid deployment of generative artificial intelligence (AI) has created an inflection point for the responsible use of technology and presented society with a critical question: How can we promote the benefits of innovative technologies while simultaneously addressing potential disruptions and ensuring public safety and security? We argue that this balancing act is achievable but not without a robust framework in place for the international governance of AI. The international community must act now to establish potent governance mechanisms that provide effective ethical and legal oversight of AI.

Drawing on ideas and concepts discussed in two June 2023 multi-disciplinary expert workshops organized by Carnegie Council’s AI & Equality Initiative (AIEI) and IEEE SA and hosted by UNESCO in Paris and ITU in Geneva, a formal Framework for the International Governance of AI was developed. The framework proposes five symbiotic components, three of which we mention here. First, is the need to immediately create a Global AI Observatory (GAIO) to facilitate communication, cooperation, and a degree of coordination among the many initiatives entering the AI governance space. A GAIO should perform an array of tasks, from producing annual reports to maintaining critical registries. Second, is the development of a normative governance capability with limited enforcement authority that legitimizes global oversight of AI—understanding that this may take more time to develop. Finally, a variety of tools (some technical) will need to be developed to ensure the safety and transparency of AI applications and to facilitate the ability of States and stakeholders to govern them.

Our aim is for these recommendations to have an immediate effect. Therefore, we have purposefully directed attention to practical ways to implement a governance framework that builds on existing resources to promote understanding, collaboration, and implementation. Such a framework would enable the constructive use of AI and related technologies while helping to prevent immature uses or misuses that cause societal disruption or threaten public safety and international stability.

A Framework for the International Governance of AI

Read the framework

Looking Ahead

We are fully aware that this skeleton framework begs countless questions as to how such governance mechanisms are implemented and managed, how their neutrality and trustworthiness can be established and maintained, or how political and technical disagreements will be decided and potential harmful consequences remediated. However, it is offered to stimulate deeper reflection on what we have learned from promoting and governing existing technologies, what is needed, and next steps forward.

We also feel this framework has significant potential applications beyond the AI space. If effective, many of the components proposed could serve as models for the governance of as-yet-unanticipated fields of scientific discovery and technological innovation. While generative AI is making it urgent to put in place international governance, many other existing, emerging, and anticipated fields of scientific discovery and technological innovation will require oversight. These fields are amplifying each other’s development and converging in ways difficult to predict.

Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs is an independent and nonpartisan nonprofit. The views expressed within this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of Carnegie Council.

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