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UN AI resolution marks global interest in rules, principles

While the United Nations' artificial intelligence resolution does not create legally binding rules, it might indicate which countries are thinking in that direction.

The United Nations General Assembly passed a final resolution Thursday on artificial intelligence, a step toward global cooperation on how AI is used and global support to safeguard the technology. It also indicates what countries might soon be ready to advance AI rules of their own.

The U.N.'s AI resolution, which was introduced by the U.S. and co-sponsored by 123 countries, encourages the private sector, research organizations and other stakeholders to "develop and support regulatory and governance approaches and frameworks related to safe, secure and trustworthy artificial intelligence systems." It also focuses on providing developing countries with access to AI advances and modern digital infrastructure.

Those who are signatories indicate a potential direction in their own local policies.
Nader HeneinAnalyst, Gartner

The resolution encourages the private sector to adhere to applicable AI laws and increase collaborative efforts to promote equitable, fair and inclusive business environments for AI. Supporters of the AI resolution might indicate they are ready to advance similar, non-binding codes of conduct or even their own AI rules within the next 12 months, said Gartner analyst Nader Henein.

"Those who are signatories indicate a potential direction in their own local policies," he said.

Window into who is moving on AI rules

U.N. resolutions aren't legally binding and don't carry much power, Henein said. However, they can indicate how supporters of such resolutions think. In this case, the U.N. AI resolution indicates not only a global interest in AI and a global concern at how the quickly the technology is advancing, but also a general consensus on the need for AI rules.

Outside the U.S., some countries that co-sponsored the resolution include the United Kingdom, Ireland, Belgium, Singapore, Australia, Argentina, Chile, Italy, Japan and South Korea. However, all 193 members of the U.N. General Assembly "have spoken in one voice, and together, chosen to govern artificial intelligence rather than let it govern us," according to remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

"It's a good list of countries that may very well be introducing their own AI regulations with various degrees of rigidity therein," Henein said.

The European Union has already adopted its own AI regulation, the EU AI Act. Meanwhile, the U.K. has held off on passing any overarching AI laws, as has the U.S. However, multiple U.S. states including Texas, Connecticut and Illinois have passed laws governing AI use in certain cases.

While the U.N. has had previous resolutions on AI, U.S. leadership causes this particular resolution to stand out, said Gaurav Pal, founder and CEO of IT consulting firm stackArmor. Pal said the resolution represents a general, global alignment on the U.S.'s position on deploying trustworthy AI systems.

"We've seen an increasing level of engagement at the highest level of government, including Congress and the White House," he said. "This resolution mirrors a lot of what the U.S. has been doing, what the U.K. has been doing."

The UN's resolution is the latest in a stint of global efforts to prop up guiding principles for the use of AI. In October 2023, the Group of Seven (G7), an informal intergovernmental political forum that includes the U.S., Canada, Japan, France, Germany, Italy and the U.K., agreed to the International Guiding Principles on Artificial Intelligence as well as a voluntary Code of Conduct for AI developers. The European Commission, the EU's executive branch, said both of the G7 agreements will complement its legally binding rules for AI laid out in the EU AI Act.

Makenzie Holland is a senior news writer covering big tech and federal regulation. Prior to joining TechTarget Editorial, she was a general reporter for the Wilmington StarNews and a crime and education reporter at the Wabash Plain Dealer.

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