UK's Sunak and world leaders address AI risks

World leaders have a responsibility to address the risks of artificial intelligence, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said at the first-ever AI Safety Summit held Thursday at the infamous Bletchley Park estate.

The Prime Minister’s comments come 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 regulations.

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.

Testing AI models before release

Sunak announced a further "landmark agreement" with "like-minded governments and AI companies."

"We will work together on testing the safety of new AI models before they are released," Sunak said at a press conference at the summit.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, US Vice President Kamala Harris, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, as well as representatives from France, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Canada, and Australia, were involved in the talks.

Sunak said the leaders had a "responsibility to address" dangers ranging from social harm and disinformation to extreme risks from AI.

AI Safety Summit World leaders
French Minister for Economy Bruno Le Maire, German Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Australia's Defence Minister Richard Marles and others attend the AI Safety Summit in Bletchley Park, near Milton Keynes, Britain, November 2, 2023. Image by Toby Melville | Reuters.

"It is critical that frontier AI is developed safely and that the potential risks of new models are rigorously assessed before and after they are deployed, including by evaluating for potentially harmful capabilities," Britain said in a chair's statement summary of the participants' discussions.

A list of the countries that had signed up to the safety testing collaboration did not include China, whose representatives were not included in the second day of talks.

Asked why China had not been invited to discuss AI model testing, Sunak said it had been right to invite China to some parts of the summit, in line with Britain's policy to engage with China where possible but also protect against risks.

"We achieved the outcome that we wanted, which was for them to be here, to be engaged ... and for them to have signed up to the Bletchley Park communique," he said.

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.”

Summit focus on "frontier AI"

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 US 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 to 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.

Elon Musk

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.

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.

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