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November 09, 2023

Britain convenes government officials and tech companies to talk AI safety

Artificial intelligence has been the talk of the town in tech circles, academia, and authorities for months. Britain intends to be at the forefront of the AI debate with a safety summit held by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak near London, which aims to discuss at length the risks and potential misuses associated with AI-powered tools and systems.

Computer scientists, tech entrepreneurs, and politicians are gathering at Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire for an AI meeting that has long been a priority on Rishi Sunak’s agenda. The British Prime Minister ramped up his AI rhetoric as of late, delivering a speech at the Royal Society last week about the risks of AI being weaponized by cybercriminals and terrorist organizations. He later unveiled the establishment of a UK AI safety institute in a world-first move paving the way for the current global summit on AI safety.

The summit’s location is nothing coincidental as Bletchley Park is the home of computing, where British codebreakers developed the first digitally programmable computer during WWII. Fast-forward to the 21st century, and a great many tech Lumineers have answered Britain’s call to tackle the burning topic that is AI and the coordinated effort needed to address the danger it poses to society.

Earlier this year, over a thousand tech leaders had already called for a pause in AI development in a pressing open letter published by news outlets like The New York Times. While Rishi Sunak rejected the moratorium that researchers and tech moguls like Elon Musk had ardently demanded, his AI summit opened with a clear-cut declaration encouraging accountability and transparency from all private actors operating in the frontier AI field. Signed by a total of 28 countries, including China and the US, the “Bletchley Declaration” aims at strengthening international collaboration on AI safety and research.

The first day’s agenda will dive into the risks of AI on society and the threat of losing control over a blooming technology that could eventually outsmart humans. On the following day, delegates shall discuss how policymakers and members of the scientific community can mitigate these safety hazards. Although the summit’s full guest list hasn’t been revealed, the names of US Vice President Kamala Harris, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, and Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni have surfaced. Representatives of tech giants like Google (News - Alert), Meta, and OpenAI are also attending the reunion. As reported by the BBC, Elon Musk will close the summit with Rishi Sunak in a live-streamed conference on X.

Despite this impressive lineup, hundreds of signatories denounced the lack of civil society representatives in a recent open letter. Other discordant voices castigated the conclave for focusing heavily on “far-off dangers” instead of exploring broader issues about the misrepresentation of marginalized communities, the spread of misinformation, and the political instability that AI could foster. 

On the other hand, some industries have stood in defense of artificial intelligence, claiming the technology can significantly bolster trust in the Internet age. AI innovations have, indeed, had a positive impact on cybersecurity by giving online platforms tools to fight back against attackers and fraudsters alike. For instance, the iGaming industry has relied on AI technology to enhance player safety and privacy like never before.

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The gaming sphere has also jumped on the AI bandwagon to create ever-so-immersive virtual ecosystems. The French studio Ubisoft rolled out an AI tool designed to spawn deeper NPC dialogue – and smarter non-playable characters, to boot. Meanwhile, Rockstar Games has been implementing AI to enhance the realism of its video games. Yet, many AI attempts have caused uproar among fans. Most recently, the unveiling of AI-generated Assassin’s Creed art resulted in massive backlash on social media.

Tackling AI and its far-reaching consequences feels like crossing a minefield, thus. For better or worse, however, artificial intelligence is poised to reshape the world as we know it. That is precisely why stronger regulations are a major concern for governmental bodies. And it shows not only in the UK but across the globe. This week alone, Joe Biden released a sweeping executive order on the development of AI while Chinese scientists advocated for stricter controls ahead of the safety summit. In tune with many of their Western counterparts, other Chinese academic attendees highlighted the technology’s “existential risk to humanity.” One thing’s for sure: the decision-makers meeting in the UK have a lot of burning issues to deliberate about.

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