UN chief warns against potential risks of technological advances

Source: Xinhua| 2018-03-24 04:08:43|Editor: Mu Xuequan
Video PlayerClose

NEW YORK, March 23 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Friday that rapidly evolving technological advances pose unforeseen challenges to regional and global stability alongside their many benefits.

"Advances in technology are giving rise very quickly to new methods and means of warfare, with potentially undesirable or unclear consequences," he told a security conference in New York.

Technologies, such as information communication technologies, artificial intelligence and 3D printing, can be used for military purposes. Innovations intended for civilian applications, such as synthetic biology or facial recognition software, can be repurposed for harmful outcomes, he said.

In the long term, deployment of new means and methods of warfare could potentially allow armed conflict to be waged from greater distances, at faster speeds and with enhanced destructive power. Such developments have unexamined consequences relating to escalation control and attribution, he said.

The "democratization" of many of these technologies also means that non-state actors, including terrorist groups, could acquire them, he said.

The links between emerging technology and weapons of mass destruction also poses challenges. For example, cyber-attacks against nuclear command and control facilities could increase the possibility of accidents or miscalculation, he said.

Such developments would be worrying even in the most benign security environment, he said. But today's climate is characterized by fragmentation and an absence of confidence. There is a danger that military solutions could take precedence over dialogue and diplomacy.

Military spending continues to rise while tens of thousands of civilians die in armed conflict. The threat posed by nuclear weapons is at a height not seen since the end of the Cold War. Tensions are running high and heated rhetoric is common, he warned.

In this environment, extra care must be taken to avoid actions that could heighten tensions, increase the prospect of misunderstanding or precipitate dangerous outcomes such as arms races, he said.

The UN chief acknowledged that new technology has bright sides of course.

The technological advances, including those brought on by a combination of computing power, robotics, big data and artificial intelligence, have generated revolutions in health care, transport and manufacturing. These new capacities can help lift millions of people out of poverty, achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and enable developing countries to leapfrog into a better future, he said.

New technologies could also enhance the maintenance of peace and security, including disarmament and non-proliferation objectives, by providing new tools and augmenting existing ones, he said.

The United Nations itself has been using unarmed, unmanned aerial vehicles in peacekeeping operations, helping to improve situational awareness and to strengthen the ability to protect civilians, he said.

"Our challenge is to maximize the benefits of the technological revolution while mitigating and preventing the dangers," said the secretary-general.