US-China cooperation on AI safety takes place behind closed doors

Category: AI Americas Asia

Leading American artificial intelligence (AI) companies—OpenAI, Anthropic, and Cohere—have unexpectedly been engaging in secret diplomacy discussions with Chinese AI experts.

The undisclosed meetings, held in Geneva in July and October last year, brought together scientists and policy experts from North American AI groups, along with representatives from Tsinghua University and other Chinese state-backed institutions. These clandestine discussions revolved around the shared concerns of AI technology spreading misinformation and posing threats to social cohesion.

Unprecedented collaboration

This revelation marks a rare instance of cooperation between the United States and China, two global powerhouses racing for supremacy in cutting-edge technologies, including AI and quantum computing. Despite ongoing tensions, the common interest in AI safety prompted both sides to seek common ground. The talks, conducted with the knowledge of the White House and other government officials, underscore the urgency and gravity of addressing the potential existential risks associated with the rapid development of AI.

Role of mediation in technology advancement

The covert discussions were facilitated by the Shaikh Group, a private mediation organization specializing in fostering dialogue between key actors in conflict regions. Salman Shaikh, the group’s chief executive, emphasized the importance of recognizing vulnerabilities, risks, and opportunities associated with the global deployment of AI models. The success of these meetings has laid the groundwork for future discussions focusing on aligning AI systems with legal codes, societal norms, and values. Plans include scientific and technical proposals to ensure AI safety on a global scale, building on the momentum generated by these groundbreaking diplomatic talks.

As the race for technological dominance continues, the collaborative efforts revealed in these secret meetings shed light on the shared responsibility of leading powers to address the ethical and safety implications of AI. The impact of these discussions extends beyond national borders, emphasizing the need for international standards and cooperation to navigate the uncharted territory of advanced artificial intelligence.


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