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UK PM Rishi Sunak warns of risks of AI ahead of summit


British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak delivers a speech on AI at Royal Society, Carlton House Terrace on Oct. 26, 2023 in London, England.

Peter Nicholls | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Thursday warned of the risks of artificial intelligence, ahead of a summit in which the U.K. hopes to take a global role in shaping how safety around the technology is designed.

Sunak said in a speech that AI “will bring a transformation as far reaching as the industrial revolution, the coming of electricity, or the birth of the internet” — while adding that there are risks attached to that proposition.

The prime minister said that AI could make it easier to build chemical or biological weapons and that criminals could exploit the technology.

“In the most unlikely but extreme cases, there is even the risk that humanity could lose control of AI completely through the kind of AI sometimes referred to as super intelligence,” Sunak said.

Sunak’s speech came as the British government gears up to host the AI Safety Summit next week. The event aims to bring together countries and companies to discuss the risks around AI. It will take place in Bletchley Park — the home of the codebreakers who cracked the code that ended World War II.

On Wednesday, the U.K. government released a report called “Capabilities and risks from frontier AI,” in which it explains frontier AI as “highly capable general-purpose AI models that can perform a wide variety of tasks and match or exceed the capabilities present in today’s most advanced models.”

This definition includes some of the large language models that underpin applications such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard chatbot.

Sunak announced that the U.K. will set up the world’s first AI safety institute to evaluate and test new types of AI in order understand the risks.

At the AI Safety Summit next week, Sunak said he will propose to set up a “truly global expert panel nominated by the countries and organizations attending to publish a state of AI science report.”

The U.S. and China are broadly seen as the two leaders in AI, serving as home to some of the world’s leading companies in the space. The U.K. has some notable AI firms, such as Alphabet-owned DeepMind, as well as strong tech-geared universities. But Britain is seen as a distant third contender, behind China and the U.S.

Britain is trying to position itself as a leader in the area of AI safety and is trying to lead the charge to police the technology.

Sunak said China has been invited to the summit next week.

“Now, I know there are some who will say that [China] should have been excluded. But there can be no serious strategy for AI without at least trying to engage all of the world’s leading AI powers,” Sunak said.

China and the U.S. has been in engaged in a battle for technology supremacy, with Washington looking to restrict Beijing’s access to key technologies related to AI. Meanwhile, China has been introducing a slew of regulations around AI over the past year and a half, as Beijing looks to keep a close watch on the development of the technology.



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