The field of artificial intelligence (AI) is experiencing a period of intense progress due to the consolidation of several key technological enablers. AI is already deployed widely and has a high impact on work and daily life activities. The continuation of this process will likely contribute to deep economic and social changes. To realise the tremendous benefits of AI while mitigating undesirable effects will require enlightened responses by many stakeholders. Varying national institutional, economic, political, and cultural conditions will influence how AI will affect convenience, efficiency, personalisation, privacy protection, and surveillance of citizens. Many expect that the winners of the AI development race will dominate the coming decades economically and geopolitically, potentially exacerbating tensions between countries. Moreover, nations are under pressure to protect their citizens and their interests—and even their own political stability—in the face of possible malicious or biased uses of AI. On the one hand, these different stressors and emphases in AI development and deployment among nations risk a fragmentation between world regions that threatens technology evolution and collaboration. On the other hand, some level of differentiation will likely enrich the global AI ecosystem in ways that stimulate innovation and introduce competitive checks and balances through the decentralisation of AI development. International cooperation, typically orchestrated by intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations, private sector initiatives, and by academic researchers, has improved common welfare and avoided undesirable outcomes in other technology areas. Because AI will most likely have more fundamental effects on our lives than other recent technologies, stronger forms of cooperation that address broader policy and governance challenges in addition to regulatory and technological issues may be needed. At a time of great challenges among nations, international policy coordination remains a necessary instrument to tackle the ethical, cultural, economic, and political repercussions of AI. We propose to advance the emerging concept of technology diplomacy to facilitate the global alignment of AI policy and governance and create a vibrant AI innovation system. We argue that the prevention of malicious uses of AI and the enhancement of human welfare create strong common interests across jurisdictions that require sustained efforts to develop better, mutually beneficial approaches. We hope that new technology diplomacy will facilitate the dialogues necessary to help all interested parties develop a shared understanding and coordinate efforts to utilise AI for the benefit of humanity, a task whose difficulty should not be underestimated.