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UN passes US-led resolution on AI technologies

Resolution ‘emphasizes that human rights and fundamental freedoms’ are central to AI development

In this photo illustration, a video created by Open AI’s text-to-video “Sora” tool plays on a monitor in Washington on Feb. 16.
In this photo illustration, a video created by Open AI’s text-to-video “Sora” tool plays on a monitor in Washington on Feb. 16. (Drew Angerer/AFP via Getty Images)

The United Nations on Thursday unanimously passed a resolution on artificial intelligence proposed by the United States and co-sponsored by dozens of other countries calling for safe and secure development of the technology.

“This is such an important moment because AI is one of the most consequential technologies of our times and it has extraordinarily broad applications and broad implications for how people will live and work around the world,” a senior administration official told reporters Wednesday ahead of the U.N. action.

The resolution, adopted by consensus from all 193 countries that are part of the U.N., “focuses on how to manage AI risks so that we can seize its benefits,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “It lays out a comprehensive vision for safe, secure and trustworthy AI and emphasizes that human rights and fundamental freedoms must be central as we develop AI. These are the values that will shape how the AI story unfolds around the world.”

The resolution is based on voluntary commitments the White House got from Google, Amazon, Inflection, Meta, Microsoft, Anthropic, OpenAI and others in July to develop AI technologies in a “safe, secure, and transparent” manner.

The outline of that deal has led to other agreements spearheaded by the Biden administration, such as discussions with other G7 countries in October that led to the International Guiding Principles on Artificial Intelligence and a voluntary Code of Conduct for AI developers, the administration official said.

An expanded group of 28 countries that met in Bletchley Park in the U.K. in early November also agreed to a framework for AI safety based on these principles.

Russia, China, and others that typically oppose U.S.-led efforts at the U.N. backed the AI resolution after Biden administration officials had spent months negotiating with large technology powers around the world to find consensus, according to officials familiar with the talks.

The resolution “strikes the appropriate balance between furthering development while continuing to protect human rights,” another administration official said.

It’s not clear what effect, if any, the resolution will have on China’s reported use of AI to suppress dissent among its Uyghur minorities.

The Biden administration decided not to include military applications of AI in the U.N. resolution, choosing to keep discussions on military uses on a separate track, one official said.

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