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Investor and entrepreneur Ian Hogarth to lead UK AI Taskforce

The foundation model taskforce has been launched by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to investigate general purpose AI models.

By Ryan Morrison

Artificial intelligence expert and entrepreneur Ian Hogarth has been appointed as the first chair of the UK’s £100m AI Foundation Model Taskforce. The group has been charged with leading AI safety research as part of the drive to push use of these advanced technologies throughout the UK economy. It comes as the government looks to speed up use of AI within the public sector to boost growth and save money.

First announced earlier this year, the UK AI taskforce is designed to bring together expertise from government, industry and academia to develop responsible standards and governance that can be used to underpin the AI white paper and the UK’s approach to regulation of the technology.

As well as being a long-time investor in artificial intelligence, Hogarth has also been critical of the speed of adoption and development of advanced forms of AI, including artificial general intelligence (AGI). On the announcement of his appointment, he said: “The prime minister has laid out a bold vision for the UK to supercharge the field of AI safety, one that until now has been under-resourced, even as AI capabilities have accelerated.”

Rishi Sunak has been pushing an agenda that the UK should become the home of AI, safety, research, and regulation, including announcing a global summit to be held in the country. The summit had been due to take place in the autumn, but last week it was reported it will be pushed back to the winter, and bring together national and corporate leaders to discuss, debate, and understand the implications of artificial intelligence with the intention of developing international standards for regulation for the technology.

This is designed to build on the fact that the UK already houses some of the world’s largest foundation model labs, including almost all of Google’s AI business through DeepMind. Anthropic, makers of the Claude chatbot have announced plans to open their European headquarters in the UK and OpenAI has an office in London.

The new task force is designed on the same model as the Vaccine Taskforce that was launched at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. It was given the agility and delegated authority to make decisions, investments, and policy suggestions in a way that is more agile than would otherwise be impossible for government.

UK AI taskforce chair will divest his AI interests

Hogarth has been a co-author of the annual state of AI report since its launch in 2018. It includes a round-up of the progress of artificial intelligence and its development. He’s also a visiting professor at UCL covering areas like tech, entrepreneurship and AI, and founded the start-up SongKick and VC firm Plural. 

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Through Plural he says he has invested in more than 50 artificial intelligence start-ups. Before he takes over as AI Taskforce chair Hogarth has agreed to divest from any company building either foundation models or foundation model safety tools. Similar rules will apply to other members as they join to mitigate potential bias.

The taskforce’s focus will be on safety issues surrounding foundation AI models. This includes large language models that underpin services like ChatGPT and Google Bard. The focus is on the general-purpose systems that have been trained on massive data sets that could be applied to tasks across the entire economy and not just built for a specific purpose.

This will include building the UK’s capabilities in foundation models by leveraging existing strengths in areas such as safety and research and development opportunities across the public and private sectors 

It will complement the work already being done by companies such as Google and Anthropic where existing safety measures are being built into their systems to ensure that they are safe and responsible. These companies have also agreed to ensure the taskforce and any of its associated researchers will have access to early preleased versions of any new models being built. Other organisations like the Alan Turing Institute will continue work on broader AI safety and standards through the AI Standards Hub, announced earlier this year.

The announcement of Hogarth as chair of the taskforce comes as the government has expressed an interest in speeding up the rollout and usage of AI in public services. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said to hold the view that the productivity boost from AI could allow for funded tax cuts ahead of the 2024 general election.

The FT reported this weekend that health secretary Steve Barclay is said to have been of a similar view regarding the transformation of the NHS. Particularly in using AI to boost productivity without requiring more staff or forcing existing staff to do more work.

Announcing Hogarth as the chair of the taskforce, Sunak said: “The more artificial intelligence progresses, the greater the opportunities are to grow our economy and deliver better public services. But with such potential to transform our future, we owe it to our children and our grandchildren to ensure AI develops safely and responsibly.”

Read more: UK government announces £50m funding for AI safety projects

Homepage image: Rishi Sunak speaking at London Tech Week. Image courtesy of Number 10 Press Office on Flickr

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