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UK government finally sets date for AI Safety Summit

The UK hopes to steer the direction of global AI regulation through the upcoming AI Safety Summit at Bletchley Park.

By Ryan Morrison

A date has finally been set for the AI Safety Summit, first announced by UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in June. The global event will be held on 1 and 2 November at Bletchley Park in Milton Keynes, the birthplace of computer science. The aim of the summit is to get international agreement on the safe development and use of AI technology.

Bletchley Park was home to allied code breakers during WW2 and saw the early stages of computer science emerge (Photo: Gordon Bell/Shutterstock)
Bletchley Park was home to allied code breakers during the Second World War and witnessed the creation of the first modern computer, Colossus, in 1943. (Photo by Gordon Bell/Shutterstock)

Few details have been released about the event, but the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) said frontier AI models, such as those currently in development by the major AI labs including OpenAI, Google’s DeepMind and Anthropic, will be a key focus for the summit.

Governments, leading AI companies and experts in the field have been invited to come to the UK to discuss the technology. This will include attempts to agree on ways to mitigate its biggest risks while ensuring it can still be utilised for wider public benefits.

Matt Clifford, CEO of Entrepreneur First, and Jonathan Black, Heywood Fellow at the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford, have been appointed by Sunak to represent the government. This will include arranging talks and spearheading negotiations with AI nations and experts. It is hoped the summit will result in a broad agreement for further developing a shared approach to the safety measures needed to mitigate the risks of AI. 

Sunak announced the event in June after a meeting with US President Joe Biden. The two countries have a broadly similar approach to regulating AI, both keen to foster the next generation of artificial general intelligence and higher-performing frontier AI models using a light-touch regulatory framework. 

A long history of innovation

Holding the summit at Bletchley Park gives some credibility to Sunak’s argument that the UK is the perfect place to host the first global AI summit, given its “long history of transformative technologies”. The Buckinghamshire country estate played host to allied codebreakers during the Second World War, and witnessed the creation of the first modern computer, Colossus, by resident cryptanalyst Alan Turing in 1943. Since his work some 80 years ago, computer science has become a key pillar of the global economy.

Bletchley Park also holds the key to some of the earliest roots of AI, with minds like Jack Good and Donald Michie among the codebreakers who went on to write extensive works on the technology. “It is fitting that the very spot where leading minds harnessed emerging technologies to influence the successful outcome of World War Two will, once again, be the crucible for international coordinated action,” said Iain Standen, CEO of the Bletchley Park Trust.

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“To fully embrace the extraordinary opportunities of artificial intelligence, we must grip and tackle the risks to ensure it develops safely in the years ahead,” Sunak warned. “With the combined strength of our international partners, thriving AI industry and expert academic community, we can secure the rapid international action we need for the safe and responsible development of AI around the world.”

The summit will build on work at international forums including the OECD, Global Partnership on AI, Council of Europe, and the UN, as well as the recently agreed G7 Hiroshima AI Process. This was an effort on the part of the wealthiest nations to set common rules for the governance of AI, confirmed during the G7 summit in Japan earlier this year.

In the UK more than 50,000 people are employed in the AI sector, which contributes an estimated £3.7bn to the economy. The country is also the birthplace of Google’s DeepMind and hosts offices for many other major AI labs, including OpenAI and Anthropic. Earlier this year, the UK government announced it would invest £100m into AI safety research through the creation of the Foundation Model Taskforce.

Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan said international collaboration was the cornerstone of the UK approach to AI regulation, with a focus on consistent rules globally. “We want the summit to result in leading nations and experts agreeing on a shared approach to its safe use,” she said. “AI is already improving lives from new innovations in healthcare to supporting efforts to tackle climate change, and November’s summit will make sure we can all realise the technology’s huge benefits safely and securely for decades to come”. 

Read more: UK AI summit details revealed, but will Big Tech dominate?

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