June 18, 2024

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Sunak’s AI summit scores ‘diplomatic coup’ but exposes global tensions

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At Rishi Sunak’s summit on artificial intelligence this week, one delegate said the British Prime Minister had scored a “diplomatic coup” by getting US and Chinese officials to stand together on the need to control AI.

Amid heightened trade and technological tensions between Washington and Beijing, the Chinese delegate Dr Wu Zhaohui surprised some at the two-day event at Bletchley Park, England by agreeing that they were united by the common values of “democracy” and “freedom” in the fight against the malicious uses of AI. 

Broad commitments from 28 nations to work together to tackle the existential risks stemming from advanced AI — as well as attracting leading tech figures from Tesla and X chief Elon Musk to OpenAI’s Sam Altman — led many to say that Sunak’s AI summit had been a success.

“It’s a great example of the convening power of the UK, because you got all of these people under one roof,” said Jean Carberry, assistant secretary for digital policy from the Irish Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. “It has been quite catalytic.”

But the Bletchley Park summit has also exposed underlying tensions about the development of AI. US vice-president Kamala Harris held a press conference in London during the summit, where she spelt out her country’s intent to write its own rules of the game.

“Let us be clear: when it comes to AI, America is a global leader. It is American companies that lead the world in AI innovation. It is America that can catalyse global action and build global consensus in a way that no other country can,” Harris said, pointedly. 

Earlier in the week, president Joe Biden issued an executive order compelling AI companies whose models could threaten US national security to share how they are ensuring the safety of their tools.

At Bletchley, the US also announced a plan to create its own AI Safety Institute staffed by experts to monitor risks, which would work closely with a similar body created by the…

2023-11-04 05:00:48

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