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World Trade Organization: Acknowledging AI applications for a better future

The WTO Public Forum 2018 is considering the future of trade from the perspective of future generations. The WTO has recognized the value of the vision and thoughts of the youth on the technologies of the 4th industrial revolution that will shape the future of trade. With this in mind, the Geneva Hub of the Global Shapers Community has leveraged the opportunity of the WTO Public Forum 2018 to bring the voice of youth to issues of the future of trade in the context of the fourth industrial revolution. Industry 4.0 is rapidly demonstrating that the whole is indeed greater than the sum of its parts. And it is in ensuring that the “whole” does come together that the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) has a key role to play.

The TBT agreement addresses regulatory interventions that may affect trade-in products. This will be the case for many Industry 4.0-related standards and regulations. The unparalleled speed and breadth of the current “revolution” unfold every day with new digital products being invented ready to fulfill needs we did not even know we had. These developments invariably expose a “dark side” of new technology; of risks that we also did not know could even exist. You may have heard that “IoT toasters” may be misused and turned into “weapons of mass destruction”

Cooperation on technical standards is also especially important when confronting novel regulatory challenges and risks, such as those related to “dual use technologies” (i.e., both for civil and defence purposes) or to the area of AI. Technical standards applying to dual-use technologies, for instance with respect to radio, telecommunication, and network security, or autonomous vehicles and aircraft, are notified by WTO members under the TBT Agreement.

The Boston Global Forum (BGF), in collaboration with the United Nations Centennial Initiative, released a major work entitled Remaking the World – Toward an Age of Global Enlightenment.   More than twenty distinguished leaders, scholars, analysts, and thinkers put forth unprecedented approaches to the challenges before us. These include President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, Governor Michael Dukakis, Father of Internet Vint Cerf, Former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, Harvard University Professors Joseph Nye and Thomas Patterson, MIT Professors Nazli Choucri and Alex ‘Sandy’ Pentland, and European Parliament Member Eva Kaili.  The BGF introduced core concepts shaping pathbreaking international initiatives, notably, the Social Contract for the AI Age, an AI International Accord, the Global Alliance for Digital Governance, the AI World Society (AIWS) Ecosystem, and AIWS City.