Rishi Sunak says guardrails needed to keep AI safe

Threats to jobs and potentially high levels of disinformation are concerns

Rishi Sunak's comments are a hardening in tone towards artificial intelligence. Reuters
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Regulatory guardrails are needed to guarantee the ambitious promises made by supporters of artificial intelligence can be realised while potential risks to society are reduced, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said.

He said UK regulations must evolve alongside the rapid advance of AI, which threatens jobs and increases the possibility of disinformation.

His comments – made as he was travelling to Japan for the G7 conference, where AI will be on the agenda – are a hardening in tone towards the breakthrough technology.

“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 came as BT Group said it will cut up to 55,000 jobs by the end of the decade as part of plans to shift to AI and automated services.

Mr Sunak believes the technological advances will benefit national security and the economy, but there are growing concerns about the technology, the dependability of the ChatGPT bot being one example.

ChatGPT passed a radiology board-style examination, a breakthrough that underscored the potential of AI in medical fields, but also revealed certain limitations that affect its dependability.

Former government chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance has said AI could have an effect on jobs comparable with the Industrial Revolution.

Earlier this month, Geoffrey Hinton, the man widely seen as the godfather of AI, said as he quit his job at Google that some of the dangers of AI chatbots are “quite scary”.

Some of Silicon Valley’s biggest names, including Twitter’s owner Elon Musk, signed an open letter calling for a pause on AI development amid concerns that it could pose risks to humanity.

The technology is causing a stir, in part, because of its ability to create deepfake videos and images.

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

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.”

In the UAE, almost three in four UAE companies and organisations have either maintained or increased their investment in artificial intelligence initiatives in recent months, as the country rapidly adopts the technology.

Google has removed the waiting list for its latest generative AI tool, Bard, and introduced the technology in more than 180 countries and territories.

They are tackling Bing and ChatGPT for a greater share of the generative AI market.

Updated: May 19, 2023, 10:33 AM