King warns of urgent need to ‘combat significant risks of powerful AI’

1 November 2023, 13:24

The King delivering a video message for the opening session of the AI Safety Summit
AI safety summit. Picture: PA

Charles recorded a video message for the opening session of the AI Safety Summit at Bletchley Park.

The King has hailed artificial intelligence (AI) as “one of the greatest technological leaps in the history of human endeavour” but warned of the urgent need to work together to combat its “significant risks”.

In a video message for the opening session of the AI Safety Summit at Bletchley Park, the King stressed the need to make sure the technology remained “safe and secure”, and said the speed of its advancement could surpass even human understanding.

He likened the “rapid rise of powerful artificial intelligence” to the world’s greatest scientific breakthroughs including the discovery of electricity and the splitting of the atom – and even the harnessing of fire.

Royal visit to Kenya – Day One
The King recorded a message for the AI Safety Summit before he left for his state visit to Kenya (Chris Jackson/PA)

And he spoke of its potential to “transform life as we know it” for the better, possibly leading to cures for cancer and other diseases, and helping to create green energy.

Charles, in footage recorded at Buckingham Palace before he left for his state visit to Kenya, said: “We are witnessing one of the greatest technological leaps in the history of human endeavour.

“The rapid rise of powerful artificial intelligence is considered by many of the greatest thinkers of our age to be no less significant, no less important, than the discovery of electricity, the splitting of the atom, the creation of the world wide web, or even the harnessing of fire.”

He added: “AI holds the potential to completely transform life as we know it to help us better treat, and perhaps even cure, conditions like cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s; to hasten our journey towards net zero and realise a new era of potentially limitless clean, green energy – even just to help us make our everyday lives a bit easier.

“However, if we are to realise the untold benefits of AI, then we must work together on combating its significant risks too.”

The AI summit sees representatives of nearly 30 countries, including the US, France and China, meeting with leading AI companies and civic society groups to discuss the risks of the emerging technology.

Delegates have already agreed on a world-first statement – the “Bletchley declaration on AI safety” – it was announced on Wednesday.

The King thanked those attending for laying the foundation for a consensus to ensure “this immensely powerful technology is, indeed, a force for good in this world”.

Highlighting the need to keep on top of the technology, the King said: “AI continues to advance with ever greater speed towards models that some predict could surpass human abilities, even human understanding.

“There is a clear imperative to ensure that this rapidly evolving technology remains safe and secure.”

He said transitions such as AI always presented “profound challenges, especially in preparing for unintended consequences”.

But Charles said: “It is incumbent on those with responsibility to meet these challenges: to protect people’s privacy and livelihoods, which are essential to both our economic and psychological well-being, to secure our democracies from harm, and to ensure the benefits of new technology are shared by all.”

Describing the international community’s co-operation on climate change, the King added: “We must similarly address the risks presented by AI with a sense of urgency, unity and collective strength.”

By Press Association

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