AI Safety Summit could provide answers on new technology
The UK is hosting the world’s biggest party and all the top names are invited. A party, that is, if you want to debate the future of artificial intelligence and how to regulate it.
Global politicians will gather with business leaders and tech engineers at the two-day AI Safety Summit at Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire on November 1 and November 2. Those expected to attend include Rishi Sunak, the prime minister, Kamala Harris, the US vice-president, Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, Sir Nick Clegg from Meta, James Manyika, Google’s vice-president of research, technology, and society for the tech giant, and the chief executives of Stability AI, Palantir and Cohere.
AI technology is developing fast but it is still a distant concept for many UK businesses, who are unsure how to adopt it or how it will change their industries. The AI Safety Summit may provide some answers about that, and about the opportunities and challenges posed by the new technology.
The summit promises to be a groundbreaking event at a historic venue, which was the home to codebreakers during World War II. Sunak has made the bold declaration that the UK “is doing far more than other countries to keep you safe”. The summit, and Sunak’s announcement of the creation of the world’s first AI Safety Institute, will focus on how to negate the risk of the tech and try to orchestrate a harmonious future for AI.
A pre-summit speech by Sunak also threw the gauntlet down for tech companies in the AI space. “Right now, the only people testing the safety of AI are the very organisations developing it,” he said. “Even they don’t always fully understand what their models could become capable of. We should not rely on them marking their own homework.”
The importance of this historic summit isn’t lost on world-leading AI pioneer Mark Minevich, who says that the event represents an unprecedented international gathering, designed to address the multifaceted challenges and opportunities presented by AI. Minevich, who is the author of Our Planet Powered By AI, said: “The summit’s core objective is to foster international collaboration, with the aspiration of establishing a shared approach to ensuring the responsible development and application of AI.”
The summit is likely to spark plenty of commentary and soundbites from world leaders and business big-hitters about AI. But whether it results in practical steps forward is less clear.
Dan Fitzpatrick, author of The AI Classroom: The Ultimate Guide to Artificial Intelligence in Education, and known as The AI Educator, thinks it could be a watershed moment for the UK’s business landscape. “Rishi Sunak, while wary of the AI abyss, has also underscored the perils of over-regulation,” he said. “UK businesses might anticipate more nuanced safety guidelines, warranting a recalibration of operational tactics. A strengthened alliance between the business community and the Government in fortifying AI safety could catapult the UK into global leadership within this domain.”
Sarah Porter, the founder and chief executive of InspiredMinds, an AI company, and the driving force behind the World Summit AI, another event, said the summit could help to spotlight innovation in the UK. “We have always been a nation of founders and bold entrepreneurs,” she says. “This summit could reignite interest in the UK tech scene if the outcomes are constructive and well-managed.”
Dr Alex Connock, senior fellow at Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford, said the summit will give the UK an advantage in the tech industry, even if the event isn’t designed to produce short-term benefits for the economy. “If it’s successful and the UK were able to put itself in a position of global regulatory leadership of AI – a sort of United Nations of AI – then that could naturally gravitate ownership and deployment of AI businesses to London, Oxford, Cambridge, and Manchester,” Connock said.
Other AI experts think it is vital that the summit starts to outline the policies that can be used to support the ethical development and use of AI but that concrete actions are agreed upon. Marga Hoek, author of Tech for Good: Solving the World’s Greatest Challenges, said: “I think ‘actions’ is an important word here. I would like to see the summit actively take steps towards maximising the ethical, potential, and minimising the risks of AI. I’d like to see political leaders and technology experts from around the world collaborating to develop policies that help, rather than hinder, the ethical development and use of AI, and a push for research and innovation that can help us realise our global goals.”
In April 2000, Bill Joy, the co-founder of Sun Microsystems, asked: “The question is, indeed, which is to be master? Will we survive our technologies?” That question about modern technology – posted in an article for Wired magazine – still feels prophetic two decades on, as eyes turn to AI, and to Bletchley Park.