The UK’s AI safety summit brings positive outcomes

After the UK's first AI safety summit, Rishi Sunak praised the event as a major diplomatic success.

With the UK’s first-ever AI safety summit over, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has celebrated the recent event as a significant diplomatic achievement, which has led to the creation of an international declaration aimed at tackling technology-related risks, along with a multinational pact for the assessment of advanced AI models.

Over the course of two days, the Prime Minister brought together global leaders, tech executives, academics, and civil society figures at Bletchley Park in Milton Keynes, which included notable figures like the US Vice-President Kamala Harris, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and Elon Musk, among others. 

A world-first success

Despite some absences, the gathering held significant political and commercial influence, with it being described as a remarkable achievement in diplomatic terms. The summit resulted in an international declaration that was signed by over 25 countries and the EU, acknowledging the need to address AI development risks.

On the second day, the declaration was followed by announcements that the United Nations would support an expert panel on AI, similar to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and that major tech companies would collaborate with governments to test their advanced AI models both before and after releasing them.

The rush to adopt AI

It was reported that all delegations at the summit were keen to claim leadership in AI regulation. European diplomats pointed to their four-year head start, while Americans boasted about their new AI safety institute. 

Peter van der Putten, Head of AI Lab at Pegasystems, provided his view, saying: “The outcomes of this week’s AI Safety Summit are a useful step towards more ethical use of AI, as well as towards global alignment on this topic. But one should also understand that the scope of this agreement is limited across a number of dimensions.

“This agreement is about policy, not regulation. That’s called soft law for a reason – it depends on the willingness to follow these guidelines or policies, but it doesn’t stop bad usage of AI, or use of AI for bad purposes.”

Although the EU is getting closer to passing its AI act, UK officials believe regulation is unnecessary or even impossible at this stage, given the rapid pace of innovation in the AI industry. However, most agree that international summits like Bletchley are important for helping countries define the problems they are trying to solve.

Reassurance in an AI-driven world

Speaking at the event, Sunak reassured people that they should not be worried about AI’s impact on jobs. The Prime Minister claimed to recognise there was "anxiety" about the impact new AI tools could have on the workplace but said it would ultimately enhance productivity over time.

"We should look at AI much more as a co-pilot than something which is necessary going to replace someone's job. AI is a tool that can help almost anybody do their jobs better, faster, quicker.

"My job, the government's job, is to make sure we have a world-class education system. That is my answer in a nutshell, that's why I don't want people to be worried, because we are building a world-class education system."

The future is bright, the future is AI

When looking to the future, Sunak said: “Fulfilling the vision we have set to keep AI safe is not the work of a single summit. The UK is proud to have brought the world together and hosted the first summit. But it requires an ongoing international process to stay ahead of the curve on the science and see through all the collaboration we have begun today. So we have agreed that Bletchley Park should be the first of a series of international safety summits with both Korea and France agreeing to host further summits next year.”

He concluded with a quote from the late Sir Stephen Hawking, saying AI is likely to be the best or worst thing to happen to humanity.

“If we can sustain the collaboration that we have fostered over these last two days I profoundly believe that we can make it the best. Because safely harnessing this technology could eclipse anything we have ever known,” explained Sunak.

“And if in time history proves that today we began to seize that prize then we will have written a new chapter worthy of its place in the story of Bletchley Park and more importantly, bequeathed an extraordinary legacy of hope and opportunity for our children and the generations to come.”

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