UN adopts Chinese resolution to broaden access to AI

July 2, 2024

  • The UN adopted a Chinese-sponsored resolution to broaden access to the benefits of AI
  • The resolution calls for richer countries to share AI technology to reduce the widening digital divide
  • The US supported the resolution but maintains sanctions on AI tech exports and investment in China

On Monday the United Nations General Assembly adopted a Chinese-sponsored resolution calling for richer countries to help developing nations benefit from AI.

The non-binding resolution, entitled “Enhancing international cooperation on capacity-building of artificial intelligence”, was introduced by ​​China’s permanent representative to the UN, Fu Cong.

Fu said that while AI technologies have had a profound impact on some countries’ socioeconomic development, developing countries have not been able to fully access and benefit from them.

As the global digital divide widens, the resolution stressed “the need and urgency to narrow the disparities and assist developing countries in artificial intelligence capacity-building so that they will not be further left behind.”

The resolution follows the adoption of the first global resolution on AI in March, which was proposed by the US and supported by China.

The earlier bill focused on AI safety and human rights while Fu says the Chinese bill is “more focused on the capacity-building”.

The resolution calls for developed countries “to increase capacity-building cooperation, including policy exchanges, knowledge sharing activities and the transfer of technology.”

While the US voted in favor of the resolution, China doesn’t think it’s acting in the spirit of the bill.

Do what you say

The US has put several measures in place to slow down China’s AI aspirations. Last August Biden’s executive order restricted US companies and individuals from investing in AI, computer chips, and quantum computing.

The US has also barred companies like NVIDIA from supplying advanced AI chips to Chinese companies. The geopolitical irony that most of these chips are made in Taiwan is not lost on China.

Ambassador Fu called on the US to act in line with the resolution they supported by lifting these sanctions.

Fu said, “We are firmly opposed to these sanctions…If people are true to the content of this resolution, it says that it is important to foster [an] inclusive business environment. We don’t think that the US actions … [are] along that line.”

The democratization of AI and its benefits sounds like a great idea, but it’s an idea that has to compete with internal economic interests and geopolitical challenges.

While the US and EU states bring anti-competition litigation against big tech companies, they also try to retain their AI hegemony.

For-profit companies like Google and the mislabeled OpenAI understandably want to retain and profit from their IP.

But the new resolution calls on countries to consider the “positive benefits of open-source software, open models and open data, among other methods and business models, in spreading the benefits of artificial intelligence.”

Is it likely that supporters of this resolution will be able to transcend politics and commercial interests to solve the developing world’s problems like poverty?

Or will rapidly accelerating AI development continue to widen the gap between the haves and have-nots?

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Eugene van der Watt

Eugene comes from an electronic engineering background and loves all things tech. When he takes a break from consuming AI news you'll find him at the snooker table.


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