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The path to AI is our helpful and welcome assistant, not a fear or a threat

"We are aware that AI can improve our lives, but it can also pose certain dangers," said dr. Emilija Stojmenova Duh, Minister for Digital Transformation, at a press conference in the middle of the first day of the Global Forum on the Ethics of AI.

More than six hundred participants from nearly seventy countries at the Global Forum prove that artificial intelligence is an important field, and it is no coincidence that Slovenia has been chosen to host this meeting, as we have a long tradition of working with artificial intelligence. No country and no company can find answers to the new questions of our time alone, which is why, according to Minister dr. Stojmenova Duh, we need global cooperation.

The morning part of the first day of the Global Forum was dedicated to reviewing, drawing on experiences, sharing knowledge, and exchanging views on the core criteria recommended by UNESCO for assessing the use of AI in Member States.

In November 2021, 193 UNESCO Member States adopted the Recommendations on Ethics in Artificial Intelligence, the first such normative document on the use of AI in the world. On approximately 50 pages, the Recommendations provide countries with a rounded framework for the ethical development and use of AI. In addition to setting out the values and principles that should guide the design, development, and use of AI, the Recommendations also propose actions that Member States should take to ensure that these values and principles are respected in areas such as communications, information, the environment, culture, education and research, the economy, work, etc.

To help Member States, the Recommendations also include two assessment tools or criteria: the first is the Readiness Assessment Methodology (RAM) and the second is the Ethical Impact Assessment (EIA).

The first tool aims to assess as well as promote actions, legislation, strategies, work plans, and institutions in the field of AI in a given country, and also to identify needs, gaps, or inconsistencies in the protection of human rights, human dignity, sustainability or environmental protection, equity, the principle of inclusion, etc. The main purpose of the second tool for assessing ethical impact is to be able to check whether algorithms comply with the principles and values set out in the Recommendations and whether information on AI tools is transparent and available to the public.

Different countries are reaching different levels in their use of AI, some are developing working bodies and guidelines, others already have strategies and solutions in place, and around 50 countries, including Slovenia, are already participating in the application of the UNESCO RAM criteria, with another 150 countries joining the assessment in the near future.

During the first panel discussion on Monday morning, moderated by Vilas Dhar, a member of the United Nations Secretary-General's Advisory Body on Artificial Intelligence, country representatives briefly outlined the state of readiness concerning RAM in Senegal, Chile, Vietnam, Jamaica, Oman, the United States, Estonia, Greece, and Mexico.

Dana Morris Dixon from the Office of the Prime Minister of Jamaica, among others, pointed to the involvement of young people, three of the members of their working body are under 30. Seth Center, Deputy Envoy for Critical and Emerging Technologies from the US, suggested the philosophy of basketball players in embracing AI: they have limited time, they need to be mobile, agile, and responsive, and they need to learn quickly when it comes to things they do not know yet. Nele Leosk, Ambassador-at-Large for Digital Affairs at the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stressed the importance of data and its use–everyone needs to know how their data is being used and to consent to its re-use.

In the second part of the debate on evaluation criteria, moderated by Antonio Zappula, CEO of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, representatives from Gabon, Uruguay, Dominican Republic, Lithuania, Romania, Maldives, and Mexico described the state of AI in their countries. In Romania, for example, there is an AI advisor in the Prime Minister's office who is also available to the private sector, thus serving as a bridge between the public and private spheres and also as a good detector of citizens' needs.

The morning part of the discussions was moderated by Igor Bergant, journalist and presenter at RTV Slovenia, who took the opportunity to present Slovenia with the help of a 60 000-year-old Neanderthal flute, a 5000-year-old bicycle, or mountains in the sun around the Brdo Congress Centre.

The afternoon part of the Global Forum on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence opened with a quick discussion on the Global Observatory on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence, which is being set up by UNESCO in cooperation with the Alan Turing Institute and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

It is a platform that will be a knowledge hub on the ethics and governance of AI. The Observatory will collect reports on methodology and country readiness assessments, best practices in AI governance and analysis, connect networks, platforms, and partnerships, and assist with state-of-the-art studies to best understand modern technologies, their beneficial and ethical use, as well as assess their implications. The Observatory was presented by Gabriela Ramos, David Leslie from the Alan Turing Institute, and Reinhard Scholl, Programme Chair of Ethical Artificial Intelligence at ITU.

The overview of national AI governance and the presentation of the Observatory were followed by the official opening of the Global Forum. Luka Mesec, Deputy Prime Minister, recalled that AI has arrived virtually overnight and how we deal with these changes is up to us, he said, confident that we will be up to the task.

Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General, believes that, in the face of contemporary phenomena, we urgently need global cooperation so that we can be active participants and not just passive observers. Marija Pejčinović Burić, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, also advocated a multilateral approach, as cross-border solutions make it easier for countries to find answers to common challenges.

Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Secretary General of the International Telecommunication Union, and Vera Jourova, Vice-President of the European Commission for Values and Transparency, also welcomed the audience via video link.

In the afternoon, the Global Forum will also feature a ministerial-level session on regional approaches to the ethical governance of AI (moderated by Aida Kamišalić Latifić, State Secretary at the Ministry of Digital Transformation), a discussion on possible ways to regulate the use of AI and the path towards harmonised regulation at the global level (moderated by Gabriela Ramos), and presentations on good practices for protecting the environment through AI.

You can follow all the discussions live on the YouTube channel of the Ministry of Digital Transformation.