12 December 2023

Decoding AI Governance

On Monday, December 4, The Tech Hub organized a conference and public event on AI governance to analyze the role of civil society in different regulatory approaches, standard-setting processes and practices in this emerging field. We had the pleasure to welcome Mark Raymond, Wick Cary Associate Professor of International Relations and the Director of the Cyber Governance and Policy Center at the University of Oklahoma, and Roxana Radu, Associate Professor of Digital Technologies and Public Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford, as guest speakers.

In the rapidly evolving landscape of artificial intelligence (AI), the quest for technological advancement is paralleled by a critical battle for influence over AI's global rulebook. As nations race to harness the transformative potential of AI, powerful actors are vying to shape its governance and regulation in ways that align with their strategic interests. This tug-of-war is not only shaping the ethical and operational boundaries of AI, but also underscoring the geopolitical implications of who gets to set the rules in this new digital frontier.

As Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies become increasingly integrated into different sectors of society, the need for robust governance mechanisms becomes paramount. While multistakeholder governance of the Internet brought together diverse actors to manage the Internet's resources, rulebook, and technical standards, AI governance represents a radically different evolution and in a dramatically different geopolitical context. It is characterized by disparate regulatory approaches, standards, and practices adopted by different stakeholders, often with conflicting interests and priorities, and with an appetite for ethics rather than governance.

During the conference, participants from academia, civil society, and governments unpacked the complexities of AI governance and explored the power play that will determine the future trajectory of AI's global impact.

The discussions were structured around four main sessions and a public event:

  • The first session examined the extent of civil society's engagement in Internet governance. It questioned whether their involvement is substantive or superficial and delved into the power dynamics at play in discussion forums and governance processes. The key inquiry here was whether civil society actors had a real say, or if they were overshadowed by more dominant stakeholders.

  • The second session assessed the representation of public interest in AI governance. It critically examined the power dynamics within AI governance structures and explored whether there is an alignment or divergence between the governance mechanisms of the Internet and AI. This comparison aimed to understand if lessons learned from Internet governance could be applied to AI or if AI requires a fundamentally different approach.

  • The third session explored research gaps and contemplated the applicability of strategies from internet governance while stressing the need for novel approaches in AI governance.

  • Finally, the last session focused on the role of Geneva as a hub for international governance. Participants discussed strategies to ensure coherent policies between AI and internet governance and how to bridge gaps among different Geneva-based stakeholders. They suggested a need for a more integrated, collaborative approach to govern these intertwined, yet distinct, domains of technology.

Over lunch time, a public event explored the ongoing struggle among various actors to shape the global standards and norms for AI. Prof Raymond and Prof. Radu questioned who is currently leading this race and what implications this has for global governance of AI.

The Tech Hub would like to thank the United States Mission in Geneva for their generous support of this event.