Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the most powerful and transformative technologies of our time. It has the potential to bring immense benefits to humanity, such as improving health care, education, environment, and economy. However, it also poses significant risks and challenges, such as ethical, social, legal, and security issues. How can we ensure that AI is developed and used in a safe and responsible manner? This is the question that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hopes to answer at the world’s first AI Safety Summit, which will take place at Bletchley Park in November 2023.
The aims and agenda of the summit
The AI Safety Summit is an unprecedented initiative that aims to bring together around 100 world leaders, tech executives, academics, and AI researchers to discuss and agree on a set of principles and actions for ensuring the safety of AI. According to Sunak, the summit has three main objectives:
• To raise awareness of the risks and opportunities of AI, especially the frontier AI, which refers to the most advanced and powerful systems that do not exist yet but may do soon.
• To establish a global consensus on the need for a common framework and standards for AI safety, based on shared values and human rights.
• To launch a new international institution, the AI Safety Institute, which will be based in the UK and will provide research, guidance, and oversight for AI safety.
The summit will feature a series of plenary sessions, panel discussions, workshops, and demonstrations on various topics related to AI safety, such as:
• The current state and future prospects of AI development and innovation
• The potential benefits and harms of AI for different sectors and domains
• The ethical, social, legal, and security implications of AI
• The best practices and challenges for designing, testing, deploying, and monitoring AI systems
• The role and responsibility of different stakeholders in ensuring AI safety
• The governance and regulation of AI at national and international levels
The challenges and controversies of the summit
The summit is not without its challenges and controversies. Some of the issues that may arise during or after the summit are:
• The participation and representation of different countries and regions. While Sunak has invited leaders from China, Russia, India, Brazil, and other emerging economies to join the summit, it is unclear whether they will attend or how they will contribute to the discussions. Moreover, some of Sunak’s own party members have criticized his decision to invite China, citing its human rights violations and its alleged use of AI for surveillance and oppression. On the other hand, some of the allies of the UK, such as the US, Germany, France, and Canada, may not send their top leaders to the summit, which could undermine its credibility and impact.
• The diversity and inclusion of different perspectives and voices. While Sunak has claimed that the summit will be inclusive and representative of different stakeholders, some critics have questioned whether it will adequately reflect the views and interests of civil society groups, marginalized communities, developing countries, and other affected parties. They have also argued that the summit should focus more on the immediate and pressing problems of AI, such as its environmental impact, its effect on jobs and inequality, its bias and discrimination against certain groups, rather than on the hypothetical and speculative scenarios of frontier AI.
• The feasibility and enforceability of the outcomes and commitments. While Sunak has expressed his hope that the summit will result in a set of principles and actions for AI safety, some skeptics have doubted whether such an agreement can be reached or implemented in practice. They have pointed out that there is no clear definition or consensus on what constitutes AI safety or how to measure it. They have also noted that there is no binding mechanism or authority to ensure that the participants will adhere to or comply with the agreed framework or standards.
The opportunities and expectations of the summit
Despite these challenges and controversies, the summit also offers some opportunities and expectations for advancing the cause of AI safety. Some of them are:
• The opportunity to raise awareness and educate the public about AI safety. The summit can serve as a platform to inform and engage the public about the risks and opportunities of AI, as well as the actions and initiatives that are being taken or planned to ensure its safety. The summit can also foster a dialogue and debate among different stakeholders about their views and concerns about AI safety.
• The expectation to establish a leadership role for the UK in AI safety. The summit can showcase the UK’s vision and ambition for becoming a global leader in AI safety. The summit can also demonstrate the UK’s expertise and innovation in AI research and development. By hosting the summit at Bletchley Park, which is a historical site for code-breaking during World War II, the UK can also highlight its legacy and contribution to the field of AI.
• The opportunity to create a network and collaboration for AI safety. The summit can create a network and collaboration among different stakeholders for AI safety. The summit can also facilitate the exchange of ideas, experiences, and best practices for AI safety. By launching the AI Safety Institute, the UK can also provide a hub and a resource for AI safety research, guidance, and oversight.
The AI Safety Summit is a bold and ambitious initiative that aims to address one of the most important and urgent issues of our time: how to ensure the safety of AI. The summit faces many challenges and controversies, but it also offers many opportunities and expectations. The success of the summit will depend on the participation and representation of different stakeholders, the diversity and inclusion of different perspectives and voices, and the feasibility and enforceability of the outcomes and commitments. The summit will not solve all the problems of AI safety, but it may be a step in the right direction