What to expect from AI Safety Summit today as science secretary warns of Terminator-style ‘loss of control’

As the prime minister heads to Bletchley Park — and prepares to meet Elon Musk — Michelle Donelan said losing control of AI would have the ‘gravest ramifications’

Archie Mitchell
Thursday 02 November 2023 08:55 GMT
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What's in store at Rishi Sunak's AI safety summit?

A Terminator-style "loss of control" over artificial intelligence is the greatest risk of the technology, the science secretary has warned.

Speaking ahead of the second day of Rishi Sunak’s AI Safety Summit — when the prime minister is set to have a sit-down with Elon Musk — Michelle Donelan said such a scenario would have the “gravest ramifications”. But she added that AI offers huge benefits — provided governments can work together to manage the risks.

So what is the government hoping to achieve today? As the prime minister heads to Bletchley Park to meet a series of global ministers and tech executives, science minister, we take a look.

Day one of the summit saw delegations from around the world, including the US and China, agree on the so-called “Bletchley declaration” – a statement on the risks surrounding the technology to be used as the starting point for a global conversation on the issue. It also saw Mr Sunak have dinner with US vice president Kamala Harris and their respective spouses.

On Thursday, the prime minister will welcome senior business chiefs and world leaders to Bletchley Park, where British codebreakers including Alan Turing broke the Enigma code used by the Nazis during the Second World War.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (PA)
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (PA) (PA Wire)

Mr Sunak will then host two sessions at the summit in the afternoon.

The first session will focus on international priorities for AI in the next five years, with representatives from the US, EU, Italy, France, Germany, Australia and others.

Mr Sunak will argue for “global responsibility” in addressing the risks of AI and taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the technology.

The second session will include a wider cast including business leaders from Microsoft, Facebook owner Meta, Google DeepMind and OpenAI.

The leaders will discuss plans for state-backed testing of AI models before they are allowed to be used.

But the most eye-catching moment of the day will come this evening, with Mr Sunak rushing back to London to meet Tesla tycoon Elon Musk for a cosy sit-down.

Elon Musk believes the danger of AI is that it could become ‘anti-human’ (Toby Melville/PA)
Elon Musk believes the danger of AI is that it could become ‘anti-human’ (Toby Melville/PA) (PA Wire)

The pair will host a free-form Q&A, which will be live-streamed on X, formerly Twitter, which is owned by Mr Musk.

Ahead of Thursday’s meetings, Mr Sunak said the world owes it to younger generations to grip the risks of AI “early enough”.

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

And on Thursday Morning, Ms Donelan said a Terminator-style "loss of control" over artificial intelligence was the biggest concern.

"That is a risk that is much more hypothetical in nature, that naturally is the one that I am most concerned about because it is the one that would result in the gravest ramifications," she told Times Radio.

Asked whether that  was the "Terminator scenario" — a reference to the Arnold Schwarzenegger film where machines take over the world — she said: "Well, that is one potential area where it could lead but there are several stages before that."

Labour’s Peter Kyle said Britain “must not hesitate” to regulate AI technology, warning that inaction will mean insecurity for workers and businesses.

The shadow tech secretary said Britain is being “left behind by the US and EU who are moving ahead with real safeguards on the technology”.

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