The biggest lesson we can learn from the current crisis is that our international system is ill-equipped to deal with a global emergency. This pandemic forced us to acknowledge the structural limitations of the multilateral system. Moreover, the impending disruptions coming from Artificial Intelligence (AI), together with the rise of digital surveillance and massive economic inequality, are fundamental threats to the stability of the world order. This realization calls for a new global agenda that is able to manage the increasing complexity of our globalized techno-landscape. For that reason, furthering the multilateral system will require an integrated approach between cognitive technologies and global governance.
The challenges posed by AI are global in nature. In times of increased nationalism and populism, it is essential for the international community to design new frameworks for global governance that enable us to build stronger relationships in the age of AI. Unless we further multilateral approaches, these imminent disruptions will come at a higher price. The constant state of flux and the accelerating rate of change are making populations across the world lack trust in core global institutions. Moreover, the upcoming AI-driven rearrangement of the world order will tend to undermine, rather than strengthen, multilateral mechanisms. As nation-states reassert their powers and weaken the role of international institutions, the need to steer regions into greater global cooperation becomes more urgent than ever.
In light of the exponential rise of AI, it is crucial for the international community to mitigate the impact of intelligent technologies. Most likely, the increase in socioeconomic inequality that results from artificial intelligence will further nationalist fervor across regions. At minimum, the wave of technological disruptions in the following years will create deep structural changes in the labour market, in a capital-intensive economy where automation could potentially displace millions of jobs. At maximum, the ubiquity of AI algorithms poses a major existential risk to our species.
Global cooperation is necessary to establish safety standards that reduce the catastrophic risks posed by the proliferation of autonomous machines. Furthermore, multilateral mechanisms are decisive in building a new social contract to ensure a more equitable distribution of resources in the AI economy. For that reason, the structural reconfiguration of the international system should be towards new and improved mechanisms that deepen international cooperation and integrate new technologies as a governing channel.
The rise of “deepfakes” and the erosion of trust with the normalization of fake news will have detrimental implications for the role global institutions have in peacekeeping and international security. Digital and precision surveillance that utilize biometric data to manipulate entire populations with the ability to control individuals, together with the refinement of lethal autonomous weapons (LAWs), are unprecedented threats to universal human rights. These novel methods of social hacking and warfare require the development of new global governance frameworks that can anticipate this ever-changing field.
Our current global governance framework was established decades before the emergence of digital technologies, and it is poorly placed to respond to the complex challenges of such massive disruptions. Without new forms of collaborative mechanisms that can govern our global commons in face of AI-driven changes, there is a real risk of sabotaging the stability of the world order in ways that are insalvable. However, an effective global governance system is not only limited to tackling humanity’s shared challenges. A truly reformed multilateral approach ought to take advantage of the major opportunities that rise from the efficacy of emerging technologies.
In that sense, this crisis offers the human race an opportunity to transcend to a new model of governance that can upgrade global institutions and reassure the importance of international unity. Furthermore, the post-crisis geopolitical arrangement urges strengthening and rebuilding international cooperation as the most effective way to move forward. There is no doubt that national responses are indispensable, but relying on them alone is futile. Our best weapon against global threats is reinforcing multilateral mechanisms that support nations in working together to solve these challenges, as global problems require global solutions.
Previous global crises were followed by the formation of new multilateral initiatives. After World War I, the international community formed the League of Nations, which morphed into the United Nations following the second World War. Moreover, the OECD emerged from the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe, which converged with the effort for the formation of a European common market, which later materialized into the European Union.
The opportunity: a new model of global governance
This time, to rebuild our global governance architecture, it is crucial to update multilateral organisms with the tools that ensure a safe path towards economic development and geopolitical stability. The potential gains from AI pose a significant opportunity to contribute to global prosperity. By 2030, it is projected that AI will add more than $15.7 trillion to the world economy, about 16 percent higher cumulative GDP compared with today. This impact can only be compared to other historic General Purpose Technologies (GPT), like electricity during the Second Industrial Revolution. Moreover, the interface between artificial intelligence and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) holds notable promise as numerous regional initiatives to use AI in the achievement of these goals proliferate across the world.
The power to process Big Data and make autonomous decisions implies the possibility for AI to play a major role in multilateral dynamics. By harnessing a more responsible use of data and machine learning, international institutions can have better regional and global coordination with national systems. Leveraging AI as a strategic tool for global governance enables multilateral organizations to manage the complexities of our interconnected world with greater precision. Accordingly, the increasing digitalization of society only furthers the need to apply these technologies in cooperation efforts.
Instead of having a common political unity where global institutions superintend local and national systems, as some have proposed in a model resembling a “World Government”, a truly effective and practical global governance framework channels a constant collaboration between local and global institutions based on the sharing of data and information. In this manner, AI can be the key for the international system to harmonize the nationalist and the globalist struggle in the coming years. By sharing crucial data with international organizations, national systems can still reassert their authority while empowering multilateral institutions to manage global problems that can only be addressed by collective efforts. By doing so, the international community can build stronger relationships and establish real rectors that coordinate better responses to our common challenges.
Moving forward, there is no better way to transition to this model of collaborative global governance than to gear international health organizations with the proper tools to deal with health crises. Global institutions can process a flux of data between national health systems to coordinate actions that increase agile governance at national and international levels. Launching regional repositories of data to solve global health challenges and partnering with companies and private labs to equip governments with critical infrastructure serves as the optimal starting point for a new way forward for globalization.
Devising a more effective approach to global public health that integrates emerging technologies with key international agencies to detect, prevent, and respond to diseases and pandemics can aid in intercepting future failures. In fact, modernizing infrastructure with greater connectivity for data collection is a strategic opportunity for developing nations to leapfrog to a new stage of development. Robust information systems and governance structures that learn from data and optimize with machine learning provide a solid path for a new foundation of multilateral relations. This transition is also the best opportunity for governments to start deploying artificial intelligence as critical infrastructure to build the new industrial revolution and leverage the benefits of a GPT social platform.
The post-crisis configuration of the international system will come with many risks that threaten the stability of the world order. The rise of nationalism and the disruptions from AI will undermine the capacities of the multilateral system. For that reason, developing an effective framework for international cooperation should be the priority of the global agenda. By integrating cognitive technologies to multilateral relations, there is a real opportunity to consolidate a new model of global governance that is equipped to deal with the challenges of our interconnected society in times of extreme volatility. Data-driven governance and machine learning optimization are strategic tools that can be leveraged to deploy critical infrastructure that facilitate agility at the national and international level. In this world, we are all stakeholders and deserve to have our voices heard. The promises of a better tomorrow will only be achieved if we take action to ensure global cooperation between all nations.
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AI Policy Exchange is an international cooperative association of individuals and institutions working at the intersection of AI and public policy, with the mission to produce deliverables that can create an AI-literate society and inform better AI policies.