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Political and tech leaders tackle AI safety at inaugural summit

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak believes AI will transform the lives of generations to come
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak believes AI will transform the lives of generations to come.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Thursday hosts political and tech leaders at the inaugural global AI safety summit, predicting the technology will radically alter society for generations to come.

The release of ChatGPT and other generative AI systems, which are capable of quickly producing text, images and audio from simple commands in everyday language, have captivated the public and offered a glimpse into the potential of the technology.

But they have also prompted concerns around issues ranging from job losses to cyberattacks and the control that humans actually have over the systems.

The two-day summit at Bletchley Park, north of London, kicked off on Wednesday with the publication of an agreement signed by 28 countries and the European Union acknowledging the "need for international action."

But Thursday is when the leading nations formally get together to address the most pressing risks presented by the rapidly evolving technology.

US Vice President Kamala Harris, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, EU chief Ursula von der Leyen and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres are joining representatives from governments including France, Germany and Australia to discuss global priorities for AI in the next five years.

Sunak is expected to "make the case for global responsibility to address the risks in order to seize the opportunities of AI," according to his Downing Street office.

Who is building AI?
Who is building AI?

While China was invited and attended on the first day, it was not invited to the second day, where more sensitive discussions will take place.

Thursday's second session includes representatives from academia and along with companies at the forefront of AI, such as OpenAI, Anthropic, Google DeepMind and Microsoft.

"I believe there will be nothing more transformative to the futures of our children and grandchildren than like AI," said Sunak.

"The UK has led the way in this global conversation on AI safety, but no one country can tackle the risks alone," he added.

Musk warning

Further AI Safety Summits are scheduled to take place in South Korea and France over the coming year, while the United States and Britain both this week announced the establishment of institutes to examine and evaluate the risks of cutting-edge AI models.

UK technology minister Michelle Donelan told AFP on Wednesday that the summit "isn't designed to produce a blueprint for global legislation".

US Vice President Kamala Harris urged collaboration as AI develops
US Vice President Kamala Harris urged collaboration as AI develops.

But she said it was instead "designed to forge a path ahead... so that we can get a better handle and understanding on the risk of frontier AI".

The first wave of mainstream AI applications like ChatGPT are often called frontier AI.

SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk is attending both days, and described the event as "timely".

"It's one of the existential risks that we face and it is potentially the most pressing one if you look at the timescale and rate of advancement—the summit is timely, and I applaud the for holding it," he said.

Sunak and Musk are due to hold a joint Q&A session in London shortly after the event closes on Thursday.

Ahead of the meeting, the G7 powers agreed on Monday on a non-binding "code of conduct" for companies developing the most advanced AI systems.

In Rome, ministers from Italy, Germany and France called for an "innovation-friendly approach" to regulating AI in Europe, as they urged more investment to challenge the United States and China.

© 2023 AFP

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