The UAE’s Minister of Artificial Intelligence, Omar Sultan Al Olama, considers generative AI as a true technological “Aladdin’s Lamp.” However, he acknowledges that if this technological genie makes a mistake, it could lead to an unprecedented disaster. Al Olama emphasizes the need for a fundamental restructuring of AI governance, focusing on guiding rather than hindering AI development and eliminating government ignorance regarding artificial intelligence.
Following the appointment of the world’s first Minister of Artificial Intelligence and the introduction of Arab-developed large AI models, the UAE President signed a law on January 22 establishing the Artificial Intelligence and Advanced Technology Committee.
The UAE Has Been Actively Making Strides in the Field of AI
On January 22, the Abu Dhabi government announced that the UAE President had enacted a law to establish the Artificial Intelligence Committee. This committee is tasked with formulating and implementing policies and strategies applicable to AI research, infrastructure, and investment in Abu Dhabi. The UAE has prioritized artificial intelligence as a key area of development, aiming to become a global leader in the AI field by 2031. In 2017, the UAE appointed the world’s first Minister of Artificial Intelligence, 27-year-old Omar Sultan Al Olama. Last year, the UAE also introduced large AI models developed by Arab experts.
Omar Sultan Al Olama views generative AI as a true technological “Aladdin’s Lamp.” However, he cautions that errors by this technological genie could lead to unprecedented disasters. He calls for adopting the approach of pioneers like Tesla CEO Elon Musk to be vigilant against unregulated AI dangers while harnessing AI to propel human boundaries forward. To guide rather than obstruct AI development, it is crucial to eliminate government ignorance about artificial intelligence.
Towards Becoming a Global Leader in AI by 2031
The UAE President, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, enacted a law establishing the Artificial Intelligence and Advanced Technology Committee (AIATC). According to a statement from the Abu Dhabi government, the committee will be responsible for developing and implementing policies and strategies related to AI research, infrastructure, and investment in Abu Dhabi. In addition to policy formulation, the committee will collaborate with local and global partners to create plans and research projects. This initiative aims to enhance Abu Dhabi’s position in the field of artificial intelligence, aligning with the UAE’s aspirations to be a hub for investment, collaboration, and talent in advanced technology.
The UAE government is actively embracing advanced technologies, focusing on AI research and industry development. In April 2019, the UAE Cabinet approved the “National Artificial Intelligence Strategy 2031,” envisioning the UAE as a global leader in artificial intelligence by 2031 and developing a comprehensive system for AI use in vital sectors of the UAE. The strategy outlines eight objectives, including enhancing the UAE’s competitiveness in AI, establishing AI innovation hubs, attracting leading research capabilities, providing data-driven infrastructure to support AI experiments, and optimizing AI governance and regulations.
Over the past year, the UAE has taken significant steps in the field of artificial intelligence, introducing large AI models developed by Arab experts. In March 2023, the Technology Innovation Institute in Abu Dhabi released the open-source large language model Falcon. In August of the same year, the Arabic open-source large language model Jais, developed by the Abu Dhabi-based AI company G42, the Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI), and the US-based AI company Cerebras, was launched. Notably, Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the chairman of G42, is also the UAE’s National Security Advisor and the chairman of the newly established AIATC.
In addition, the Dubai AI Center was launched in June 2023 to assist government entities in deploying future technologies in critical areas. The center plans to support over 20 local and global advanced technology startups. In August 2023, the Dubai International Financial Center began offering a 90% subsidy for AI and Web3 companies to obtain business licenses, aiming to attract global talent and investment.
The UAE has also established dedicated free economic zones for Web3 and AI service providers. In October 2023, the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) launched the “RAK Digital Assets Oasis,” a free zone for Web3, digital assets, and artificial intelligence.
Beyond artificial intelligence, the UAE is actively deploying other advanced technology industries. In 2018, the UAE Blockchain Strategy was announced to advance blockchain applications. In March 2022, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, established the Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority to regulate cryptocurrencies and digital assets. In July 2022, Dubai intensified efforts to develop the metaverse, unveiling the Dubai Metaverse Strategy.
“Aladdin’s Magic Lamp” in the Field of Regulatory Technology
Describing the UAE as a country that has grown in a globally interconnected and internationally cooperative environment, entrepreneur and investor Zhu Xiujie, who has lived in Dubai for eight years, stated that the Abu Dhabi royal family showed strong interest in AI around 2016-2017. The Middle East aims to establish its own AI, cloud services, and data centers, investing without hesitation in matters related to national security strategy reserves.
To develop artificial intelligence, Omar Sultan Al Olama was appointed as the Minister of Artificial Intelligence in October 2017. In an article titled “I am the First Minister of Artificial Intelligence in History,” published in Time on January 19, this “post-90s” Minister of Artificial Intelligence elaborated on his philosophy of AI governance—how to regulate the “Aladdin’s Lamp” of the technology sector.
Al Olama highlights the unprecedented progress made in artificial intelligence over the past year, moving from chatbots like ChatGPT to tools like Midjourney for visual storytelling and foundational models like HyenaDNA for genomics. He emphasizes that AI is no longer a hypothetical technology but a global technology that requires governments to invest more time and resources.
According to Al Olama, in the face of computers and future artificial intelligence, the speed and complexity of human thought will pale in comparison. He metaphorically describes it as a genuine technological “Aladdin’s Lamp,” where a prompt word, akin to a “knowledge genie,” can fulfill every numerical wish. However, he warns that if the “genie of Aladdin” makes a mistake, it could lead to disasters never seen before.
These potential disasters include critical infrastructure paralysis caused by rogue AI systems (ceasing to serve their original purposes and starting to serve their own goals, such as disrupting or exploiting human society), the spread of credible deepfake information by robots leading to a breakdown of trust in information, and cyber threats causing extensive casualties.
Al Olama asserts that we cannot wait until an AI disaster occurs before regulating it. He argues that traditional governance and regulatory models planned over many years are severely inadequate in the current global order. In the current world order, a single country bound by borders and bureaucracy cannot effectively address the challenges posed by globalized and rapidly evolving forces like artificial intelligence.
This necessitates a fundamental restructuring of AI governance. Al Olama advocates for adopting the approach of pioneers like Elon Musk, who warns against unregulated AI dangers while leveraging AI to propel human boundaries forward. He emphasizes the need to view these warnings as scalable guardrails, guiding rather than obstructing the development of artificial intelligence. To achieve this, it is essential to eliminate government ignorance about artificial intelligence.
In addition to broadening the government’s perspective, Al Olama believes that a rational, simple, and cautious approach must be taken towards AI regulation—one that does not stifle innovation or hinder adoption. He cites the “Three Laws of Robotics” by science fiction writer Isaac Asimov as an example, with the first law being to prevent robots from harming humans or allowing humans to come to harm. These universal axioms will not be shaken by the development of artificial intelligence, as they are common human markers when addressing the next ethical dilemmas posed by AI. They will serve as a reminder for us and future generations that artificial intelligence must always serve human values.
Al Olama concludes by urging counterparts worldwide to convene meetings and establish a consensus framework for universal basic laws on artificial intelligence.