The global stage is buzzing with anticipation and apprehension as the world’s power players come to terms with the incredible potential and lurking pitfalls of artificial intelligence (AI). The paramount question on everyone’s mind is how much influence AI will exert on the trajectory of human progress, especially in the face of possible missteps along the way.

Yesterday, the United Nations made a resounding declaration by introducing a groundbreaking AI advisory board composed of 39 remarkable individuals from diverse backgrounds spanning government, academia, and industry. Their mission: to undertake a comprehensive analysis and provide forward-thinking recommendations for the international governance of AI.

This advisory board will serve as a crucial bridging entity, designed to harmonize and collaborate with other AI initiatives launched by the international organization. Notably, the United Nations has spent the better part of a month engaging with industry leaders and key stakeholders, building a strategy and approach to tackle the AI challenge. The grand unveiling of their recommendations is slated for the summer of 2024, coinciding with the “Summit of the Future” event.

The board, boasting a mix of exceptional talent and expertise, convened for the first time today. Their mandate? To establish a global scientific consensus on the risks and challenges surrounding AI, leverage AI to support the Sustainable Development Goals, and bolster international cooperation in AI governance.

What sets this board apart in its early days is its decidedly positive stance. At this juncture, a chorus of voices is raising concerns about the perils associated with AI, be it in the context of national security threats, data privacy, or the spread of misinformation. Next week, global leaders and experts will congregate in the UK to address some of these pressing issues at the AI Safety Summit. How all these national and international initiatives will collaborate and enforce their agendas remains uncertain.

However, the UN’s approach aligns with its core principles, and the group of 39 is adopting a constructive outlook with a special emphasis on international development. As UN Secretary General António Guterres aptly puts it, “AI could power extraordinary progress for humanity. From predicting and addressing crises, to rolling out public health programs and education services, AI could scale up and amplify the work of governments, civil society, and the United Nations across the board. For developing economies, AI offers the possibility of leapfrogging outdated technologies and bringing services directly to people who need them most. The transformative potential of AI for good is difficult even to grasp.”

The UN is keen to emphasize the “bridging” role of this advisory board, leaving the door open for deeper exploration beyond the realm of “AI for good.” As concerns surrounding AI intensify, experts like Gary Marcus, who spoke about AI risks at Disrupt in September, highlight the darker sides of AI development. Marcus voices his short-term fear of AI-driven misinformation undermining democracy, and a long-term fear that we may not have control over the AI we create, opening the door to unintended consequences.

With such high stakes and complex challenges ahead, the United Nations’ AI advisory board is poised to play a pivotal role in shaping the future of AI governance. This distinguished team of 39 individuals, including representatives from industry giants like Alphabet/Google and Microsoft, along with government officials, professors, and even a “digital anthropologist,” will steer the course toward a more secure and responsible AI landscape.

Here’s the full list of the remarkable individuals making up the advisory board:

  1. Anna Abramova, Director of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations-University AI Centre, Russian Federation
  2. Omar Sultan al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence of the United Arab Emirates, United Arab Emirates
  3. Latifa al-Abdulkarim, Member of the Shura Council (Saudi Parliament), Assistant Professor of Computer Science at King Saud University, Saudi Arabia
  4. Estela Aranha, Special Advisor to the Minister for Justice and Public Security, Federal Government of Brazil, Brazil
  5. Carme Artigas, Secretary of State for Digitalization and Artificial Intelligence of Spain, Spain
  6. Ran Balicer, Chief Innovation Officer and Deputy Director General at Clalit Health Services Israel, Israel
  7. Paolo Benanti, Third Order Regular Franciscan, Lecturer at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Italy
  8. Abeba Birhane, Senior Advisor in AI Accountability at Mozilla Foundation, Ethiopia
  9. Ian Bremmer, President and Founder of Eurasia Group, United States
  10. Anna Christmann, Aerospace Coordinator of the German Federal Government, Germany
  11. Natasha Crampton, Chief Responsible AI Officer at Microsoft, New Zealand
  12. Nighat Dad, Executive Director of the Digital Rights Foundation Pakistan, Pakistan
  13. Vilas Dhar, President of the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, United States
  14. Virginia Dignum, Professor of Responsible Artificial Intelligence at Umeå University, Portugal/Netherlands
  15. Arisa Ema, Associate Professor at the University of Tokyo, Japan
  16. Mohamed Farahat, Legal Consultant and Vice-Chair of MAG of North Africa IGF, Egypt
  17. Amandeep Singh Gill, Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology
  18. Dame Wendy Hall, Regius Professor of Computer Science at the University of Southampton, United Kingdom
  19. Rahaf Harfoush, Digital Anthropologist, France
  20. Hiroaki Kitano, Chief Technology Officer of Sony Group Corporation, Japan
  21. Haksoo Ko, Chair of Republic of Korea’s Personal Information Protection Commission, Republic of Korea
  22. Andreas Krause, Professor at ETH Zurich, Switzerland
  23. James Manyika, Senior Vice-President of Google-Alphabet, President for Research, Technology and Society, Zimbabwe
  24. Maria Vanina Martinez Posse, Ramon and Cajal Fellow at the Artificial Research Institute, Argentina
  25. Seydina Moussa Ndiaye, Lecturer at Cheikh Hamidou Kane Digital University, Senegal
  26. Mira Murati, Chief Technology Officer of OpenAI, Albania
  27. Petri Myllymaki, Full Professor at the Department of Computer Science of University of Helsinki, Finland
  28. Alondra Nelson, Harold F. Linder Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study, United States
  29. Nazneen Rajani, Lead Researcher at Hugging Face, India
  30. Craig Ramlal, Head of the Control Systems Group at the University of The West Indies at St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago
  31. He Ruimin, Chief Artificial Intelligence Officer and Deputy Chief Digital Technology Officer, Government of Singapore, Singapore
  32. Emma Ruttkamp-Bloem, Professor at the University of Pretoria, South Africa
  33. Sharad Sharma, Co-founder iSPIRT Foundation, India
  34. Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford University Cyber Policy Center, Netherlands
  35. Jaan Tallinn, Co-founder of the Cambridge Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, Estonia
  36. Philip Thigo, Adviser at the Government of Kenya, Kenya
  37. Jimena Sofia Viveros Alvarez, Chief of Staff and Head Legal Advisor to Justice Loretta Ortiz at the Mexican Supreme Court, Mexico
  38. Yi Zeng, Professor and Director of Brain-inspired Cognitive AI Lab, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China
  39. Zhang Linghan, Professor at the Institute of Data Law, China University of Political Science and Law, China