AI UK: How Rishi Sunak's safety summit is powering technology

UK primed to chart the course for global artificial intelligence safety at Bletchley Park conference

The goal of the event is to discuss the risks associated with AI and to determine how they can be mitigated through co-ordinated international action. Reuters
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The UK will begin hosting the AI Safety Summit 2023 on Wednesday at Bletchley Park, with government officials, leading artificial intelligence companies, civil society groups and experts expected to attend.

The event discussions will centre on the risks associated with AI, particularly frontier AI models, and determining how these risks can be mitigated through co-ordinated international action.

The choice of meeting place is a nod to Britain's tech past, as Bletchley Park is where the country's Second World War codebreakers worked to untangle Nazi encryption using early computers.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak wants the UK to be a global leader in AI safety and to carve out a post-Brexit role among the competing economic blocs of the US, China and the EU.

The summit aims to achieve five objectives: developing a shared understanding of the risks posed by frontier AI, establishing a forward process for international collaboration, identifying appropriate safety measures for organisations, exploring potential areas for research collaboration, and showcasing the global benefits of safe AI development.

The ultimate aim is to provide a platform for key stakeholders to discuss strategies for ensuring that the development and deployment of AI technologies are conducted responsibly and safely.

It is also meant to be a representation of the UK’s commitment to leading in the areas of AI safety and investment.

The UK and the global AI sector

A recent report by the City of London Corporation, supported by EY, indicated that the UK has become a major player in the global AI sector.

Currently, the UK hosts the world's third-largest AI sector, despite having only 1 per cent of the world's population, according to the report.

In under a decade, the UK has witnessed a remarkable surge in the establishment of AI companies.

From a modest 211 AI firms in 2012, the landscape has been transformed, with 1,662 active AI enterprises in 2022.

Investment in the AI sector in the UK is also substantial.

In 2022, private capital investment in UK AI scale-ups was £3 billion, nearly double the funding secured by those in France, Germany and the rest of Europe combined, according to the report.

That same year, the UK showcased its formidable presence in the global AI arena by securing $4.37 billion in private investment, catapulting the country to third place in global rankings.

The UK’s focus on AI safety is evident from the investment trends. More money is being channelled into AI safety in the UK than any other country.

Official Whitehall projections suggest that by the end of the decade, the UK's AI sector could be worth half a trillion dollars, reaching $1 trillion by 2035.

Who is attending?

Organisers told Reuters there would be about 100 guests, including world leaders, tech company executives, academics and representatives of relevant foundations.

The full guest list has not been made public and some world leaders – including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – have confirmed they will not attend.

US Vice President Kamala Harris, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, China’s tech vice minister Wu Zhaohui and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres are expected to join.

China's presence is another sign of thawing relations with Britain, after James Cleverly visited Beijing in August in the first trip by a British foreign secretary in five years.

Executives from the best-known AI companies in the world – including Google DeepMind chief executive Demis Hassabis and Sam Altman, who founded ChatGPT creator OpenAI, will also attend. Representatives from Alibaba and Tencent will be there as well.

Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk is also expected to attend.

Academics and non-profit that have been vocal in warning of the risk of the rise of AI, will also take a leading role, represented by AI “godfathers” such as Stuart Russell and Geoffrey Hinton, alongside the Alan Turing Institute and the Future of Life Institute.

Updated: November 01, 2023, 9:40 AM