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Is UN Planning to Replace Humans with Machines & Robots?

Is UN Planning to Replace Humans with Machines & Robots?
Improvement & Assist, Featured, International, International Governance, Globalisation, Headlines, IPS UN: Contained in the Glasshouse, Labour, TerraViva United Nations

Credit score: UN Photograph/Manuel Elias

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 11 2019 (IPS) – The United Nations– once facetiously described as an establishment whose bloated paperwork moves at the leisured tempo of a paralytic snail — is steadily zooming into the sector of fast-paced, cutting-edge digital know-how the place humans might at some point get replaced with machines and robots.

Is this a glimpse right into a distant future or a far-fetched fantasy?

The technological improvements presently being experimented on the UN embrace artificial intelligence (AI), machine-learning, e-translations (involving the UN’s six official languages the place machines are taking up from humans) and robotics.

The United Nations says it has also been utilizing unarmed and unmanned aerial automobiles (UAVs), or drones, in peacekeeping operations, “helping to improve our situational awareness and to strengthen our ability to protect civilians”.

At a joint meeting of the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and its Economic and Social Committee, a robot named Sophia had an interactive session final yr with Deputy Secretary-Common Amina J. Mohammed.

Credit: UN Photograph/Manuel Elias

Among the many technological innovations being launched on the planet body, and particularly in the UN’s E-conference providers, is using eLUNa –Electronic Languages United Nations — “a machine translation interface specifically developed for the translation of UN documents.”

What distinguishes eLUNa from business CAT (Pc-Assisted Translation) instruments is that it was developed completely by the United Nations and is particularly geared in the direction of the wants and dealing strategies of UN language professionals, says the UN.

Apart from the UN headquarters in New York, the spreading eLUNa community consists of the UN Workplace in Geneva (UNOG), the UN Office in Vienna (UNOV), the UN Office in Nairobi (UNON) and the Financial and Social Fee for Western Asia (ESCWA) based mostly in Beirut.

Secretary-Basic Antonio Guterres says the breakthrough has been brought on by a mixture of computing energy, robotics, huge knowledge and synthetic intelligence—whilst they generate revolutions in healthcare, transport and manufacturing worldwide.

“I am convinced that these new capacities can help lift millions of people out of poverty, achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and enable developing countries to leapfrog into a better future,” he predicted final yr.

Addressing the chief heads of some 31 UN businesses last November, Guterres singled out a number of the challenges emanating from international mega tendencies and technological advancements in four distinct areas — artificial intelligence; cyberspace; biotechnology; and the influence of technological purposes on peace and safety — “with a view to identifying specific entry points for UN engagement and to determine focus areas where the UN system can add value.”

He stated, he’s working with colleagues throughout the whole UN system to determine “how our organization can better harness the benefits and address the risks of new technologies, and how the United Nations itself can make better use of innovation.”

Christopher Fabian, Principal Adviser within the Workplace of International Innovation at the UN’s youngsters’s agency UNICEF, one of the businesses making headway in AI, informed IPS that UNICEF is using Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (ML/AI) for each programmatic and operational functions.

Based mostly on the “Principles of Digital Development,” ( the group promotes purposes and improvement of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence with fairness at their core, whether by means of truthful and open coaching sets or by means of discussions on algorithmic equity and knowledge poverty, he added.

For example, he identified, UNICEF is creating Magic Box (, a collaborative platform that’s made potential by way of the contributions of personal sector companions similar to Telefonica, Google, IBM, Amadeus and Pink Hat, which share their knowledge and experience for public good.

By harnessing real-time knowledge generated by the personal sector, UNICEF can achieve crucial insights into the needs of weak populations, and make more knowledgeable selections about how to invest its assets to reply to disaster, epidemics and other challenges, stated Fabian.

AI can enhance effectivity via automation. Facial recognition is one instance of this. Credit score: UNICEF/TusharGhei/2018

In addition, UNICEF, via its Enterprise Fund, the primary financial car of its variety within the United Nations, collaborates with innovators on the bottom in UNICEF programme nations to build and check new solutions on the tempo required to keep up with the rapidly evolving challenges dealing with youngsters.

The Venture Fund was launched by UNICEF in 2016 — a $17.9 million investment fund — making use of classes discovered over 8+ years, enterprise the complicated work of serving to to determine and grow innovations for youngsters.

The UNICEF Venture Fund makes $50–100Okay early stage investments in technologies — together with knowledge science and AI — for youngsters, developed by UNICEF nation workplaces or corporations in UNICEF programme nations.

By offering flexible funding to early-stage innovators, it permits UNICEF to shortly assess, fund and grow open-source know-how solutions that present potential to positively impression the lives of weak youngsters, declared Fabian.

In the meantime, Guterres stated new technologies might improve the maintenance of peace and safety, together with disarmament and non-proliferation aims, by providing new instruments and augmenting present ones.

For instance, he noted, using shared ledger know-how corresponding to Blockchain in nuclear safeguards, or machine learning in multilateral disarmament verification — because the Complete Nuclear-Check-Ban Treaty Organization is pioneering.

Excerpts from an interview with UNICEF’s Christopher Fabian:

IPS: What is the upside and draw back of automation– and notably at UNICEF? Is reaching efficiency a key criterion?

Fabian: AI may also help UNICEF in several methods — from deep studying algorithms that can study underlying patterns in satellite imagery to map each faculty on the planet, to predictive models that can assist us forestall the unfold of illnesses. These sort of solutions may also help enhance the reach and effectivity of programmes within the subject in addition to optimize the allocation of the scarce assets.

Nevertheless, challenges are many. First, is the shortage of high quality coaching units. Knowledge around probably the most weak populations is usually scarce and inaccurate. As a collective, we’d like to start putting extra assets in the direction of amassing knowledge from the ground, to validate present data, and to debias these datasets.

But what occurs once we’ve got numerous, good quality datasets? We nonetheless need to maintain working collectively to be sure that the info is used to build truthful, inclusive algorithms. At UNICEF, we’d like to be sure that we are a part of the conversations occurring globally, so that we will convey the voice of youngsters, particularly probably the most weak, to the desk.

As one of many efforts to mitigate these risks, UNICEF is a founding companion of the Partnership on AI to Profit Individuals and Society – and a member of several Working Teams including the ‘Fair, Transparent and Accountable AI’ and the ‘AI, Labor and Economy’-. The partnership was established to research and formulate greatest practices on AI applied sciences, to advance the public’s understanding of AI and its influences on individuals and society.

IPS: To the perfect of your information, is UNICEF the only — or one of many few UN businesses –on the trail to digitized, highly-automated operations?

Fabian: Initiatives around using Massive Knowledge, AI, blockchain and different digital improvements are being piloted in a number of UN businesses and programmes — and typically by means of joint collaborations among them.

So as to promote the sharing of these experiences and study from each other’s successes and failures, UNICEF co-funded, collectively with the World Meals Programme (WFP), the UN Innovation Community ( — an off-the-cuff, collaborative group of UN innovators all for sharing their expertise and experience with others to promote and advance innovation inside the UN System.

Equally, frontier technologies and digitalization are one of many foremost priorities of the Secretary Common. To strengthen digital cooperation and advance proposals amongst governments, the personal sector, civil society, international organizations, academia, technical group and different related stakeholders in the digital area, the High-level Panel for Digital Cooperation was set.

The Panel is predicted to increase consciousness concerning the transformative impression of digital technologies across society and the financial system, and contribute to the broader public debate on how to ensure a protected and inclusive digital future for all, bearing in mind relevant human rights norms.

IPS: Kai-fu Lee, writer of “AI Superpowers” and a longtime tech government, is quoted by the New York occasions as saying that AI will remove 40 % of the world’s jobs inside 15 years? And a report by the World Economic Forum (WEF), which met in Davos final month, has estimated that 1.37 million staff can be displaced by automation within the subsequent decade. What’s your prediction for UNICEF?

Fabian: In accordance to current studies, between 75 million and 375 million staff (three to 14% of the global workforce) will need to change occupational classes by 2030 if automation happens at a medium-to-rapid fee. Similarly, in accordance to World Financial Forum, 65% of youngsters getting into faculty immediately, could have jobs that don’t exist but. Which means regardless that many jobs will disappear, many new ones might be created.

Nevertheless, there is a robust proof of expertise mismatch between young individuals and employers; young individuals are not learning the talents they need to get jobs. If we handle to perceive the talents needed for the way forward for jobs and are in a position to regulate schooling techniques accordingly, youngsters and youth might be extra resilient to automation and higher prepared for the longer term.

One among UNICEF’s efforts on this entrance is Info poverty, an initiative that goals at making certain that every baby has entry to the suitable info, opportunity and choice.

Further Information — UNICEF Era AI stats (i.e. stats UNICEF predicts/works with):

IPS: Do you assume the benefits of AI at UNICEF will ultimately spillover — and leading by instance — into the UN secretariat and different UN businesses?

Fabian: Comparable to query three (vis a vis UN Innovation Community and Excessive Degree Panel on Digital Cooperation — We are working with/via each teams and see help for the benefits of AI (and a spotlight paid to figuring out and mitigating dangers) growing.

The writer may be contacted at [email protected]


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