Artificial intelligence summit focuses on the transition to smart sustainable cities
Not only is artificial intelligence is at the forefront of fighting hunger and mitigating the climate crisis, it is also facilitating “the transition to smart sustainable cities”, said the chief of the UN agency which specializes in information and communication technologies, Houlin Zhao as he kicked off the 3rd Artificial Intelligence summit for Good Global Summit in Geneva, Switzerland.
“This summit is the leading United Nations platform for dialogue on artificial intelligence,” explained the Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), adding that it “also raises complex questions about privacy and trust and poses other challenges, from job displacement and potential bias in algorithms, to autonomous weapons and social manipulation.”
More than 2,000 participants attended from over 120 countries, joined AI leaders and humanitarian stakeholders to highlight the potential for advancing education, healthcare, wellbeing, social and economic equality and space research.
Unable to attend the Artificial Intelligence summit in person, Secretary-General António Guterres sent a message lauding “the promise” of AI while also warning against its potential dangers.
“If we are to harness the benefits of artificial intelligence and address the risks, we must all work together: Governments, industry, academia and civil society, to develop the frameworks and systems that enable responsible innovation,” he said. “These systems must be nimble and adaptable, capable of developing norms and self-regulation standards alongside legally binding laws and instruments when needed, as in the case of lethal autonomous weapons.”
Noting that the UN is “well placed” to host the forum on “how best to guide progress to better serve humanity,” Mr. Guterres stated that “we must seize the moment, in partnership, to deliver on the promise of technological advances and harness them for the common good,”
In his opening address, the Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Petteri Taalas, spelled out that climate change is accentuating the need for tailored information and we must improve resilience to mitigate extreme weather events.
“WMO deals with big data every day, running a 24/7 operational prediction system based on a huge amount of data gathered around the world,” he said, identifying artificial intelligence as a potentially valuable tool to help meet this challenge.
Deliver on the promise of technological advances and harness them for the common good –UN chief Guterres
Guided by the multi-disciplinary audience, this year’s summit aimed to generate ‘AI for Good’ projects and ensure that all the associated technologies will be developed safely and to allow equal access for all.
Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Francis Gurry, said that 340,000 AI patent applications have been filed since the 1950s: “Artificial intelligence is one of the most important of the technologies that are currently transforming our economy and society.”
Mr Gurry admitted there were pressing economic and ethical questions surrounding the use of AI, saying: “we are at an extremely early stage, but the common characteristic is that the underlying technological activity…is occurring at a much more rapid speed than our capacity to formulate responses.”
Organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), in partnership with the XPRIZE Foundation, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and 37 UN entities – the summit, which ran from 28-31 May, aimed to identify practical applications of AI to accelerate the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
“We need to ignite a bigger conversation centred around how to use AI and data to help find scalable solutions to the biggest challenges facing humanity,” XPRIZE CEO Anousheh Ansari said.
It will also debate unintended consequences of the AI revolution, and propose actions for high-potential solutions in achieving global scale, along with a so-called “learning day” to offer an audience with leading AI experts and educators.
“By bringing together AI technologists with leaders in government, industry, and humanitarian initiatives, new ways to apply AI to pressing world challenges are imagined and realized,” stressed Vicki L. Hanson, ACM CEO.
What is clear to ITU chief Zhao is that “no one nation, no one organization, no one company and no one community can meet these challenges alone.”
“The path to a transformative but also a safe, trusted and inclusive AI will require unprecedented collaboration between government, industry, academia and civil society,” he concluded.