The recent artificial intelligence safety summit convened by U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has revived a bad idea—creating an “IPCC for AI” to assess risks from AI and guide its governance. At the conclusion of the summit, Sunak announced an agreement was reached amongst like-minded governments to establish an international advisory panel for AI, modeled after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The IPCC is an international body that periodically synthesizes the existing scientific literature on climate change into supposedly authoritative assessment reports. These reports are intended to summarize the current state of knowledge to inform climate policy. An IPCC for AI would presumably serve a similar function, distilling the complex technical research on AI into digestible synopses of capabilities, timelines, risks and policy options for global policymakers.
At a minimum, an International Panel on AI Safety (IPAIS) would provide regular evaluations of the state of AI systems and offer predictions about expected technological progress and potential impacts. However, it could also serve a much stronger role in approving frontier AI models before they come to market. Indeed, Sunak negotiated an agreement with eight leading tech companies, as well as representatives from countries attending the AI safety talks, that lays a foundation for government pre-market approval of AI products. The agreement commits big tech companies to testing their most advanced models under government supervision before release.
If the IPCC is to serve as a template for international AI regulation, it is important not to repeat the many mistakes found with climate policy. The IPCC has been widely criticized for assessment reports that present an overly pessimistic view of climate change, emphasizing risks while downplaying uncertainties and positive trends. Others contend the IPCC suffers from groupthink, as there is pressure on scientists to conform to consensus views, thereby marginalizing skeptical perspectives. Additionally, the IPCC’s process has been criticized for allowing governments to stack author teams with ideologically-aligned scientists.
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