“The Future of Everything – Sustainable Development in the Age of Rapid Technological Change”

Driverless cars. Advanced medical diagnosis. 3D printing. Artificial intelligence is playing an increasing role in the economy today, and it can fundamentally reshape global and local economies in the years to come. The impacts on communities and societies could be profound.

To place the issue of artificial intelligence on the international agenda, experts from Governments, academia, business and civil society, will gather at UN Headquarters in New York on 11 October, to identify options to harness the potential of rapid technological change and innovation towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

The joint meeting of the United Nations General Assembly Second Committee and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) will have a special focus on “The Future of Everything—Sustainable Development in the Age of Rapid Technological Change.”

The life-like robot “Sophia,” which has made many public appearances, will also participate in the event.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called artificial intelligence “a new frontier” with “advances moving at warp speed.”

“Artificial Intelligence has the potential to accelerate progress towards a dignified life, in peace and prosperity, for all people,” said Mr. Guterres. “The time has arrived for all of us – governments, industry and civil society – to consider how artificial intelligence will affect our future.”

The UN discussion is intended to identify options on how the potential of technological change can be harnessed to achieve sustainable development. The experts, covering a range of areas, will discuss the key trends in technology and innovation in recent years, and how they have had differential impacts on people and prosperity.



Technologies as a main driver of development

Technological progress is a main driver of economic growth and improvements in living standards over the long term. It increases overall productivity, thereby boosting per capita income and consumption. Artificial intelligence has been used commercially since the mid-1990s to assist in a variety of decision-making tasks, such as fraud detection, and has accelerated rapidly since around 2010. Machine learning has enabled AI to defeat the best human chess and Go players, and has proven to be useful in interpreting medical data, in facilitating communication, in developing new forms of transportation, and in industrial automation.

According to the study conducted by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) in collaboration with its agencies, 3D printing which can produce three dimensional solid objects from a digital file in complex shapes using less materials than traditional manufacturing methods, has the potential to change how products are made and to address many of the issues of industrialization in developing countries, particularly for least developed countries.

Artificial Intelligence challenging labour markets and equality

While new technologies hold immense promise, they are also seen as a threat, potentially disrupting labour markets and contributing to income inequality. The DESA study notes that the biggest public fear is that robots and artificial intelligence will replace human jobs on a large scale, resulting in mass unemployment around the world. As machines did with muscle power in the past, AI is challenging to substitute brainpower in revolutionary technological advancement nowadays.

The study shows that estimates of the share of jobs at risk of being automated vary widely and can reach staggering numbers of over 80 per cent. Most analyses suggest that artificial intelligence will continue to benefit higher-skilled workers with a high degree of flexibility, creativity, and strong problem-solving and interpersonal skills. Low- and medium-skilled workers, both in manual and cognitive jobs, are expected to face further pressures from ever more capable machines and AI software.

This could exacerbate the decline of middle-skilled jobs and rising wage inequality observed in the recent past, particularly in many developed countries. The study further warns that future AI-powered robots could increasingly displace highly educated and skilled professionals, such as doctors, architects and even programmers. 


Event Information


  • H.E. Ambassador Marie Chatardová, President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)
  • E. Ambassador Sven Jürgenson, Chair of the Second Committee of the UN General Assembly
  • Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General, United Nations
  • Jennifer Strong Journalist, Host of Future of Everything Podcast, Wall Street Journal
  • David Hanson, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Hanson Robotics
  • Stephen Ibaraki, Serial entrepreneur, investor and futurist, founding managing partner of REDDS
  • Jeffrey Schnapp, Founder and Faculty director, metaLAB at Harvard University
  • Rita Kimani, Co-founder, FarmDrive
  • Dickson Despommier, Professor Emeritus of Public and Environmental Health, Columbia University
  • Sophia, Humanoid Robot

When:           Wednesday 11 October 2017 at 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. EDT

Where:          ECOSOC Chamber, UN Headquarters, New York or live through http://webtv.un.org

For more information, please visit: http://bit.ly/TheFutureofEverything


Media contacts

UN Department of Public Information

Dan Shepard, T: +1 (212) 963-9495 | E: shepard@un.org

Kensuke Matsueda, T: +1 (917) 367-5418 | E: matsueda@un.org

UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs

Paul Simon, T: +1 (917) 367-5027 | E: simonp@un.org