Toward A Smarter Globe

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A leading international policy organization issued recommendations for artificial intelligence, adding momentum to international efforts to guide the technology in broadly beneficial directions.

What’s new: The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development published guidelines to promote AI’s benefits while protecting human rights and democratic values. This is not just another think tank: The group represents 36 wealthy countries including the U.S. Six more countries, mostly in South America, signed on as well.

The recommendations: The OECD document offers five main principles. AI should:

  • Benefit people and the planet.
  • Respect the rule of law and human rights.
  • Make its decisions understandable.
  • Be secure and safe.
  • Be developed and deployed in an accountable way.

It also outlines a set of governance policies. Countries developing AI should:

  • Fund research and public data sets.
  • Foster shared knowledge.
  • Manage the transition from research to deployment.
  • Prepare for shifts in the labor market.
  • Cooperate with other nations on technical standards.

The hitch: The recommendations are non-binding. There’s no agreement about enforcement or mechanism for doing so. Moreover, there’s no plan for putting them into practice. The OECD is forming an AI Policy Observatory to focus on implementation.

Takeaway: The OECD’s work may look redundant, but it's an important step toward harnessing AI on a global scale. It signals widespread acknowledgement — by the world’s most developed countries, at least — that AI is on track to change every sector of the global economy. And it shows a will to grapple with that change sooner than later, and to make sure that fostering prosperous, equitable, and sustainable societies is part of the discussion. Whether and how governments will heed the call remains to be seen.


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