AI summit - friend or foe? Rishi Sunak has fired the starting gun on the race for robots

1 November 2023, 16:44

AI summit - friend or foe? Rishi Sunak has fired the starting gun on the race for robots, writes Natasha Clark
AI summit - friend or foe? Rishi Sunak has fired the starting gun on the race for robots, writes Natasha Clark. Picture: Alamy
Natasha Clark

By Natasha Clark

Prepare for the worst, hope for the best, is how Tesla and X boss, Elon Musk, described the debate around AI as he arrived at today's summit.

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As world leaders, tech ministers and business bosses descend on Bletchley Park - the historic home of the World War II code-breakers - the air has been thick with warnings that new technology could be a total disaster for life as we know it.

Musk himself admitted it could be "one of the biggest threats to humanity".

Rishi Sunak warned last week in the wrong hands, it could see chemical and biological weapons developed, and state actors use it for evil means.

While the possible extinction of the human race certainly makes for fearful reading, US Vice President Kamala Harris thinks we need to be looking more at the here and now.

Already it is being used to make sick child sexual abuse images and develop sophisticated fraud scams.

While this rapidly changing technology is moving at such a speed experts think we will soon be scrambling to catch up, the risks are very much already with us today.

And most of today's delegates are more excited than fearful about what advances in artificial intelligence could bring.

The first AI safety summit has seen 28 nations sign up to the Bletchley Declaration, which ministers hope will pave the way for international coordination on how to use and monitor the tech for good.

In a surprise video message King Charles gushed about how he hopes it would help "safeguard the future of our planet" and could be the "greatest technological leap" in a generation, making green, clean energy for years to come and helping detect and cure diseases for the next generation.

"AI has the capability to completely transform life as we know it.

The UK has kickstarted the race to harness the uses of AI in developments which could be as transformational as electricity.

And with two further summits announced in Korea and France in the next year alone, experts here at Bletchley Park think this is just the beginning of something which will turn the world as we know it on its head.

Where many delegates differ in their opinion is how this should all be regulated, and controlled.

The PM is of the view that we can't create new laws yet for what we do not know is there, and only by first understanding it can we take the first steps.

AI companies in the UK are already voluntarily handing over their models to the government in a bid to democratise the progress and fend off calls for regulation.

But the EU is already steaming ahead with its own laws - the first bit of legislation in the world to look at this area.

That is already spooking some CEOs. But others think it's inevitable the world will end up with a patchwork quilt of differing rules and regulations, and aren't worried about it hampering their plans.

AI is also a personal project for the PM - who is determined to show the world he can deliver for the long-term, not just the short-termism of the British electoral cycle.

While the potential to explore this rapidly-advancing technology will surely in the future be harnessed in the same fashion that social media and the internet is being done now, Downing Street hopes the UK can be at the forefront of shaping that debate and unleashing possibility for the next generation.

Whether humans or AI will be in the lead in a year's time... watch this space.