Rishi Sunak insists 'guardrails' will be put in place to regulate AI in bid to minimise risks to society

18 May 2023, 23:45 | Updated: 19 May 2023, 01:27

Rishi Sunak has insisted that "guardrails" will be put in place
Rishi Sunak has insisted that "guardrails" will be put in place. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Rishi Sunak has insisted that "guardrails" will be put in place to regulate AI so the benefits can be reaped while minimising the risks to society.

The Prime Minister said the UK's regulation must evolve alongside the rapid developments in artificial intelligence as it poses a growing threat to jobs and disinformation.

His comments came after BT Group said it will cut up to 55,000 jobs by the end of the decade amid plans to shift to AI and automated services.

Chief executive Philip Jansen said the company would be a "huge beneficiary" of the technology and the rise of AI would help create jobs to replace those lost.

While he acknowledged that it presented risks, Mr Jansen said AI is "going to be as big as the internet and mobile phones".

He added that machines would still not replace humans entirely, saying: "We won't be in a situation where people feel like they're dealing with robots."

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Speaking during his trip to Japan, Mr Sunak said he expects his discussions with world leaders on AI to carry on at the G7 summit in Hiroshima.

"If it's used safely, if it's used securely, obviously there are benefits from artificial intelligence for growing our economy, for transforming our society, improving public services," he said.

"But, as I say, that has to be done safely and securely, and with guardrails in place, and that has been our regulatory approach."

His comments mark a hardening in tone towards AI.

Read more: BT to replace 10,000 workers with AI as part of wider cull of up to 55,000 staff in bid to slash costs

Read more: Rishi Sunak refuses to commit to 2019 immigration manifesto pledge as Cabinet splits on issue

Andrew Marr reacts to the government's plan for light-touch regulation of artificial intelligence

The Government's policy paper on the technology published less than two months ago was titled "A pro-innovation approach to AI regulation".

It suggested that instead of enacting legislation it was preparing to require companies to abide by five “principles”.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "There's a recognition that AI is a problem that can't be solved by any one country acting unilaterally.

"The UK's approach is meant to be nimble and iterative because of the nature of AI.

"The starting point for us is safety and reassuring the public they can have the confidence in how AI is being used on their behalf."

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