UN Secretary-General Warns Big Tech Being Reckless for AI Profits

Big tech companies are being reckless in developing their AI products, says UN Secretary-General António Guterres at the WEF.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres warned the world that the big tech companies are pursuing profits “recklessly” by pushing artificial intelligence development. He was giving a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos. He made the connection between AI risk and the climate crisis, commenting that the international community has no strategy to deal with either, which is quite true.

Big technology companies are truly pursuing AI development at a breakneck speed. They are iterating their models and improving their tools around the clock.

Google has called 2024 the year of AI1, Microsoft is pouring more and more resources into embedding AI into its products2, OpenAI is always working on improving its wildly popular model3, a bunch of AI startups are all in a race to release the next big tool4, AI is being leveraged in everything from creative software to sound production5, and so on.

What this means is that we are not able to catch up. Not just to all these developments, but from a legal or ethical point of view, to contain it either. If something goes awfully wrong, we have essentially no safeguards in place even with a bunch of different organizations focused on AI safety that has all these big tech companies as partners. It remains to be seen how these collective partnerships will actually work in the face of an AI-related threat.

Guterres challenged representatives of the tech industry in the audience to work with governments to put in place guardrails for AI and argued that governments and international bodies such as the UN needed to play a role in ensuring AI was a force for good. Work on that front is already underway, with the EU, the UK, and the US leading the way for controlling risk, misinformation, disinformation, harm, and other malicious repercussions stemming from generative AI and its explosive growth on all horizons.

Guterres warned that the rapid development of AI could result in “serious unintended consequences,” pointing out that some powerful tech companies were already pursuing profits with a clear disregard for human rights, personal privacy, and social impact (which is 100% true, with a bunch of AI companies, often backed by powerful tech companies, developing their models without even having a team to judge the ethics or to train their models to avoid harm).

The geopolitical divide preventing the international community from coming together must be overcome. The promise of scant collaboration (such as the one between the US and China) is not remotely sufficient for the kind of challenges we might be facing very soon.

  1. Leaked Google Memo Shows Aimless Execs Basically Worshipping AI (Futurism)
  2. How Microsoft is embedding everything AI into your Windows (Tech Wire Asia)
  3. ChatGPT release notes hint toward 2-3 major updates every month, though Altman says they’re not working on GPT-5 for some time in response to an open letter at MIT.
  4. The artificial intelligence industry is expected to grow at a CAGR of ~16% (Statista) which is almost as much as the EV industry.
  5. Generative AI is everything, everywhere, all at once (ZDNet).

By Abhimanyu

Unwrapping the fast-evolving AI popular culture.