Today, AI policy analysis tends to focus on national strategies, nascent international initiatives, and the policies of individual corporations. Yet, international standards produced by nongovernmental organizations are also an important site of forthcoming AI governance. International standards can impact national policies, international institutions, and individual corporations alike. International standards offer an impactful policy tool in the global coordination of beneficial AI development.
International standards can help achieve several key policy goals to support the beneficial development of AI. Standards can support trust building internationally as well as among competing AI labs. Standards can support a consistent focus on safety in the research, development, and deployment of advanced systems. Standards can also enable partial openness among labs, facilitating the sharing of threats and mitigation strategies while avoiding possible racing incentives. Once standards are created, existing institutions can spread and enforce them globally. In essence, standards can offer a set of ground rules to reduce risks in international and market competition for the development of increasingly capable AI systems.
AI standards are already under development today at leading international standards bodies ISO and IEEE. These efforts are a promising start, but further work is needed in order to steer the development of advanced AI systems in safe and ethical directions. In particular, leading AI developers and organizations are notably absent from standardization efforts ongoing today. Concerned researchers should consider engaging in the development and subsequent dissemination of standards.
The case for further engagement in the development of international standards for AI R&D are detailed in our report, available here. The report explains the global policy benefits of AI standards, outlines the current landscape for AI standards around the world, and offers a series of recommendations to researchers, AI developers, and other AI organizations.