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Business, Political Leaders Agree to Safely Develop, Deploy AI

Han Duck-soo, South Korean Prime Minister, gives a speech during the opening ceremony of the AI Global Forum in Seoul, South Korea, May 22, 2024. (REUTERS/Kim Soo-hyeon)
Han Duck-soo, South Korean Prime Minister, gives a speech during the opening ceremony of the AI Global Forum in Seoul, South Korea, May 22, 2024. (REUTERS/Kim Soo-hyeon)
Business, Political Leaders Agree to Safely Develop, Deploy AI
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Major AI developers and top government officials have agreed on measures that aim to ensure that artificial intelligence (AI) systems are safely built and deployed.

The announcement came at the end of a two-day meeting in Seoul, South Korea. The gathering continues discussions from a similar event held last November in Britain. The goal of both meetings was to bring AI developers together with government representatives to establish goals and guidelines related to safe AI development.

Many governments and international organizations across the world are seeking to create rules for AI technology development. Officials and activists have raised concerns that AI systems could present risks. The concerns include AI possibly attacking online systems controlling infrastructure. Another concern is that AI systems might help spread misinformation or create “deepfakes” to mislead voters in elections.

Legislative attempts to create rules for AI development, especially in the United States, have not been successful. Last October, President Joe Biden issued an executive order calling on companies working on AI projects to develop guidelines for protecting users of the technology.

At the latest meeting, officials from 16 different technology companies signed a voluntary agreement on Tuesday. In it, they promised to develop AI technology in ways that limit possible harm to the public. Among the companies were American-based Google, IBM, Amazon, Microsoft and OpenAI. Others included China’s Alibaba and Tencent, as well as South Korea’s Samsung Electronics and G42 from the United Arab Emirates.

The British government co-led the summit with South Korea. It said in a statement that the leaders in attendance sought to establish “a common understanding of AI safety and align their AI research.”

One of the main parts of the latest agreement calls for creating a network of publicly supported safety institutes designed to guide research and testing of AI technologies. Some of these institutes have already been set up by Britain, the U.S. and Singapore.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the meeting through a video link that AI technology has continued to quickly develop since the group’s last meeting in Britain. Such development had led to “life-changing technological advances.” But Guterres added that the progress had also created “life-threatening new risks.”

“We cannot sleepwalk into a dystopian future,” he added. “Where the power of AI is controlled by a few people — or worse, by algorithms beyond human understanding,” he said.

Earlier this year, the U.N. General Assembly approved its first resolution on AI. The measure received support from all 193 U.N. member states. It called for international efforts to ensure that new technologies help all nations, respect human rights, and stay “safe, secure and trustworthy.”

Attendees agreed on the need for AI companies to exchange ideas on their progress and development methods. The group also agreed to provide information on safety.

South Korea’s science and information minister, Lee Jong-Ho, spoke to the gathering before it ended on Wednesday. He said worldwide AI development had reached a point where “cooperation is not an option; it is a necessity.”

AI experts welcomed the steps to start creating rules, or regulations, to keep the technology safe. But some noted that such rules need to be enforced to be effective.

Francine Bennett is director of the AI-centered Ada Lovelace Institute in Britain. She told Reuters news agency, "We need to move past voluntary...the people affected should be setting the rules via governments."

AI companies should be able to prove their products meet established regulations before they even reach the market, said Max Tegmark. He is president of the Future of Life Institute, a nonprofit bringing attention to the risks of AI. Tegmark said companies should equate safety with profit and attempt to limit possible harms during the development of systems.

South Korean minister Lee said a big problem is that any laws aimed at making AI systems safer are far behind continuous development and public releases. He told Reuters, "But for safe use by the public, there needs to be flexible laws and regulations in place."

I’m Bryan Lynn

Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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Words in This Story

align – v. to support the opinions of a political group, country, etc.

institute – n. an organization where people do a particular kind of scientific, educational or social work

advancement – n. progress

dystopian – adj. relating to a very bad or unfair society in which there is a lot of suffering

algorithm – n. a set of steps that are followed to complete a computing process or problem

option – n. a thing that is chosen from a set of possibilities

via –prep. through

flexible – adj. able to change or be changed easily according to a particular situation