UK’s Sunak urges world leaders to address AI risks
By Martin Coulter and Paul Sandle
BLETCHLEY PARK, England (Reuters) – World leaders have a responsibility to address the risks of artificial intelligence, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Thursday, a day after he secured China’s backing for an international effort to manage the risks of the technology.
Some tech and political leaders have warned the rapid development of AI poses an existential threat if not controlled, sparking a race by governments and institutions to design safeguards and regulation.
Sunak led talks on the final day on Thursday of an inaugural AI Safety Summit at Bletchley Park, home of Britain’s World War Two code-breakers, before a conversation later with tech billionaire Elon Musk in central London.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, U.N. Secretary-General AntÃ³nio Guterres and other leaders were set to discuss a plan for state-backed testing and evaluation of AI models before they are released, according to Sunak’s office.
“I wanted us to have a session to talk about this issue as leaders with shared values, in private,” Sunak told them at the start of the session.
They had a “responsibility to address” dangers ranging from social harm and disinformation to extreme risks from AI, he added.
Sunak said he wanted them to look back at this moment in five years and “know that we made the right choices to harness all the benefits of AI in a way that will be safe for our communities, but deliver enormous potential as well”.
Representatives of companies such as Microsoft-backed OpenAI, Anthropic, Google DeepMind, Microsoft, Meta and xAI were set to join a later session.
The EU’s von der Leyen said AI safety standards that were accepted worldwide needed to be established, according to the text of her speech.
She said complex algorithms could never be exhaustively tested, so “above all else, we must make sure that developers act swiftly when problems occur, both before and after their models are put on the market”.
The final words on AI from the two days will be a conversation between Sunak and Musk, due to be broadcast later on Thursday on Musk’s X, the platform previously known as Twitter.
According to two sources at the summit, Musk told fellow attendees on Wednesday that governments should not rush to roll out AI legislation.
Instead, he suggested companies using the technology were better placed to uncover problems, and they could share their findings with lawmakers responsible for writing new laws.
On Wednesday about 100 officials, academics and tech executives discussed risks from AI misuse, unpredictable advances in AI and from loss of control and other Doomsday scenarios.
In a first for Western efforts to manage its safe development, a Chinese vice minister joined U.S. and European Union leaders and tech bosses on Wednesday at the summit, which is focused on highly capable general-purpose models called “frontier AI”.
More than 25 countries present, including the United States and China, as well as the EU, signed a “Bletchley Declaration” on Wednesday saying countries needed to work together and establish a common approach on oversight.
It focuses on identifying risks of shared concern, building scientific understanding of them and developing cross-country policies to mitigate them.
Governments are now trying to chart a way forward alongside AI companies which fear being weighed down by regulation before the technology reaches its full potential.
Some British lawmakers have questioned whether China should be at the summit given the low level of trust between Beijing, Washington and many European capitals when it comes to Chinese involvement in technology.
Sunak, however, said there could not be a conversation about AI without including one of the indisputable world leaders in the technology.
“We’ve all signed the same bit of paper, whether that’s us, the Americans, Europeans [or] China, which I think is a good sign of progress,” he told news website Politico’s Power Play podcast.
(Reporting by Paul Sandle and Martin Coulter; Additional reporting by William James and Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)
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