Christopher Nolan, the director of Oppenheimer, emphasized the challenges of implementing nuclear weapons-style regulations on artificial intelligence. He cautioned that the United Nations’ influence had significantly diminished. According to Nolan, J Robert Oppenheimer’s vision for international control of nuclear weapons had partially materialized, but there has still been widespread proliferation of the technology since Oppenheimer’s leadership in the Manhattan Project during World War II.
“To look at the international control of nuclear weapons and feel that the same principles could be applied to something that doesn’t require massive industrial processes – it’s a bit tricky,” he said.
“International surveillance of nuclear weapons is possible because nuclear weapons are very difficult to build. Oppenheimer spent $2bn and used thousands of people across America to build those first bombs. It’s reassuringly difficult to make nuclear weapons and so it’s relatively easy to spot when a country is doing that. I don’t believe any of that applies to AI.”
This week the UN secretary-general, António Guterres, said the UN was the “ideal place” for establishing a global standard and approach to AI, as calls grow for an international effort to moderate the technology’s development.The UN-brokered treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons obliges nuclear-armed countries not to assist non-nuclear weapon states in acquiring or developing such military technology.
Christopher Nolan said Oppenheimer had wanted countries to give up “some portion” of their sovereignty to put control of nuclear energy into the hands of the international community via the UN. However, he said the UN was “very different and very diminished from what it was in the 1950s”.
Nolan stated that renowned physicist Oppenheimer and AI experts who advocate for restraining the development of the technology have “very strong parallels.”Nolan’s film details how Oppenheimer’s calls for nuclear restraint, including over the development of the powerful hydrogen bomb, led to clashes with the US political and military establishment.