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UK to host global AI summit

The UK says it will welcome AI leaders in the autumn as it looks to take a leadership position in regulating the technology.

By Matthew Gooding

The UK government will host what it says is the first global AI summit as lawmakers around the world grapple with how to regulate the technology. The announcement comes ahead of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s talks with US President Joe Biden later today, where AI is set to be high on the agenda.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak attending a baseball match, a trip which saw him announce that the UK would host a summit for the global AI community.
Rishi Sunak, pictured attending a baseball match during his trip to the US. He hopes to catch the attention of the global AI community when the UK hosts a summit in the autumn. (Photo courtesy of the Number 10 press office)

Foreign secretary James Cleverly will also convene the first-ever briefing of the UN Security Council on the opportunities and risks of AI for international peace and security, a Downing Street announcement says. It is all part of the government’s bid to ensure it has a seat at the table as rules governing advanced AI systems like GPT-4, the technology behind OpenAI’s ChatGPT chatbot, are drawn up.

What will happen at the UK AI summit?

Details of the summit and who might be invited have yet to be confirmed. The government announcement says it will take place in the autumn.

It “will consider the risks of AI, including frontier systems, and discuss how they can be mitigated through internationally coordinated action,” a Number 10 spokesperson said. “It will also provide a platform for countries to work together on further developing a shared approach to mitigate these risks.”

The government believes the UK is well-placed to convene discussions on the future of AI, pointing out that the UK’s AI sector is the third largest in the world, ranking only behind the US and China. It contributes £3.7bn to the UK economy annually, and employs 50,000 people across the country.

Sunak said: “AI has an incredible potential to transform our lives for the better. But we need to make sure it is developed and used in a way that is safe and secure.

“Time and time again throughout history we have invented paradigm-shifting new technologies and we have harnessed them for the good of humanity. That is what we must do again.

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“No one country can do this alone. This is going to take a global effort. But with our vast expertise and commitment to an open, democratic international system, the UK will stand together with our allies to lead the way.”

At his meeting with Biden, Sunak will “stress the importance of like-minded allies and companies working to develop an international framework to ensure the safe and reliable development and use of AI.”

Is the UK government u-turning on AI regulation?

As reported by Tech Monitor, Sunak’s government appears to be evolving its position on AI regulation as fears about the potential harms the technology could cause.

Earlier this year it set out its stance on the regulation of automated technologies in a white paper, which espoused a “light touch” approach to regulating AI, and declined to set up a dedicated regulator to police developers of large language models and other AI technologies.

However, other countries are proposing a much more proscriptive approach to regulation, and the UK government now appears to be changing its position so that it isn’t excluded from discussions. Politico reported earlier this week that civil servants are “no longer pushing the vision set out in the white paper”, citing AI industry insiders.

Sunak has committed government funds to the AI in the form of an AI taskforce, which has been given a £100m budget to investigate what should be done to boost the UK’s capabilities in this area. Last month he met with CEOs from leading AI companies, including OpenAI’s Sam Altman.

But while the announcement says the UK’s departure from the EU has allowed it “to act more quickly and agilely in response to this rapidly changing market”, the reality appear to be different. Since Brexit, it has been excluded from key forums like the Tech and Trade Council, where countries including the US and Canada have opened discussions on AI codes of conduct and legislation with the EU.

Demis Hassabis, CEO and Co-Founder of Google’s UK AI lab DeepMind, said: “AI brings incredible opportunities but also challenges for the world, and international cooperation is essential for ensuring this technology is developed safely and responsibly for the benefit of everyone.

“The global summit on AI safety will play a critical role in bringing together government, industry, academia and civil society, and we’re looking forward to working closely with the UK Government to help make these efforts a success.”

The summit is also backed by controversial US big data company Palantir, which is playing an increasingly important role in the NHS despite criticism over its close links to the CIA. Its co-founder and CEO Alexander C. Karp added: “The ability of institutions to effectively capture the recent advances of artificial intelligence, and in particular large language models, will determine which organizations succeed and ultimately survive over the longer term.

“We are proud to extend our partnership with the United Kingdom, where we employ nearly a quarter of our global workforce. London is a magnet for the best software engineering talent in the world, and it is the natural choice as the hub for our European efforts to develop the most effective and ethical artificial intelligence software solutions available.”

Read more: Government backs UK AI regulatory sandbox

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