UN Unveils Advisory Body to Foster Better AI Governance

ADDIS ABABA – Cognitive scientist Abeba Birhane has been selected as a member of the United Nations’ high-level advisory body on Artificial Intelligence (AI).

On Thursday, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres unveiled the AI advisory body to deliver recommendations for the international governance of AI technologies.

Abeba, a Senior Advisor in AI Accountability at Mozilla Foundation, is among the 38 experts in the multidisciplinary advisory body.

“I’m thrilled to be selected as one of UN’s inaugural AI Advisory Body to support the international community’s efforts to govern artificial intelligence,” Abeba wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The Cognitive scientist researches human behavior, social systems, and responsible and ethical AI – work for which she was featured on the TIME100 Most Influential People in AI list.   

Abeba and 37 experts on the AI Advisory Body are tasked to offer diverse perspectives and options on how AI can be governed for the common good.

While launching the advisory body, the UN Secretary-General remarked that the transformative potential of AI “for good is difficult even to grasp,” pointing to a major leap in the capabilities and use of AI, through chatbots, voice cloning, image generators, video apps, and more, in the last year.

“But all this depends on AI technologies being harnessed responsibly, and made accessible to all – including the developing countries that need them most,” he added.

Today, expertise is concentrated in a handful of companies and countries which he warned could “deepen global inequalities and turn digital divides into chasms.”

The potential harms that could be unleashed include the accelerated spread of misinformation and disinformation, the entrenching of bias and discrimination, surveillance and invasion of privacy, fraud, and other violations of human rights.

Guterres, who seeks global conversation on the governance of AI, sees the Advisory Body as a starting point.

The experts will make preliminary recommendations by the end of 2023 on three areas – the international governance of AI; a shared understanding of risks and challenges; as well as opportunities and enablers.

The recommendations will feed into preparations for the Summit of the Future next September, and specifically into negotiations around the proposed Global Digital Compact.