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UAE to play ‘central role’ in AI but needs greater regulation

AI regulations UAE Reuters/Elizabeth Frantz
OpenAI CEO Sam Altman praised the Emirates' 'desire, commitment and willingness' to explore AI
  • Sam Altman in Abu Dhabi to discuss government’s AI plans
  • Top Dubai lawyer calls for greater AI regulation
  • UAE’s Regulations Lab launched in 2019 to develop tech legislation

The founder of ChatGPT has praised the UAE for being ahead of the curve on the development of artificial intelligence (AI) – as a top Emirati lawyer called for greater regulation of the new technology sector.

In a visit to Abu Dhabi on Tuesday Sam Altman said that the UAE had been discussing AI “before it was cool” and before others decided to now “jump on the AI bandwagon”.

Altman, now CEO of ChatGPT’s developer OpenAI, praised the Emirates’ “desire, commitment and willingness” to explore the technology.

“I’m hopeful that the region can play a central role in this global conversation,” he said.

Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the UAE’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, met with Altman during his visit to Abu Dhabi and discussed plans to expand the use of AI as part of the UAE government’s ongoing digital transformation efforts.

However, international business lawyer Habib Al Mulla told AGBI that, while supporting the use of AI, he called for greater regulation of the sector.

Al Mulla’s practice is using ChatGPT and has launched a legal academy to train lawyers who are keen to take advantage of the technology.

He said: “There are a lot of new issues that are going to arise from the use of artificial intelligence which are unprecedented in all aspects. We need to be prepared. We need to have some sort of answers to them.”

In a bid to address the regulatory issue, the UAE’s Regulations Lab was launched in 2019 to proactively anticipate and develop future legislation for emerging technologies.

A federal law was also issued authorising the UAE cabinet to grant temporary licences to test and vet innovations such as AI.

Dr Habib Al MullaSupplied
Dr Habib Al Mulla said the UAE needs to be prepared for unknown AI issues that may arise

Altman said the world faces “existential risks” from AI, but stressed that “it is possible to not stifle new innovation and address the risks”.

For now, however, rule-makers are struggling to play policy catch-up.

In March an online letter, signed by technology leaders including Elon Musk and Apple Computer co-founder Steve Wozniak, called for a six-month “pause” on giant AI experiments to allow regulators to develop safety protocols.

The European Union is close to passing legislation to regulate AI technology, which could be the world’s first comprehensive AI law.

“We want AI systems to be accurate, reliable, safe and non-discriminatory, regardless of their origin,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said last month.

In the US, President Joe Biden said there was no evidence currently to suggest that AI is dangerous.