AI safety is priority for the UK, Tech Secretary says

Michelle Donelan was speaking ahead of the UK hosting the first AI Safety Summit next week.

Martyn Landi
Tuesday 24 October 2023 17:27 BST
Secretary of State for Science, Innovation, and Technology Michelle Donelan (PA)
Secretary of State for Science, Innovation, and Technology Michelle Donelan (PA) (PA Wire)

The UK’s approach to artificial intelligence will prioritise safety and will make the country the “best place in the world” to locate and grow an AI firm, the Technology Secretary has said.

Michelle Donelan said “the country which tackles key AI safety risks” first will be the one to “fully take advantage of the huge potential that AI has to provide”.

The science, innovation and technology minister used a speech to the Onward think tank to lay out the Government’s approach to the technology ahead of its AI Safety Summit next week, where world leaders and tech firms will gather to discuss AI’s growing impact.

Ms Donelan dismissed suggestions that focusing on safety first was “overcautious”.

“The pace of development is fast and unpredictable, which means that our focus needs to be on understanding the risks,” she said.

“And in life, I do think it’s important that you truly grip the problems before you stack on solutions, and with AI it should be no different.”

She added that the UK was “putting more investment” into the questions around AI safety than any other in the world, arguing that “safety is absolutely critical to unlocking adoption across the economy and across society”.

It comes ahead of the safety summit and growing concerns about the impact of AI, particularly generative AI tools such as ChatGPT, and there possible effect on jobs, education and other areas of daily life.

New research from the University of Sheffield found that chatbot tools like ChatGPT could be tricked into creating malicious code that could then be used to carry out cyber attacks.

Ms Donelan said the one of the central aims of the AI Safety Summit would be establish a consensus among world leaders and tech firms on the risks around the technology.

One of the key objectives of the summit is to form an agreement on what the actual risks are, and how we can work together to keep up to date with that by bringing countries together, leading tech organisations, academia and civil society,” she said.

During her speech, the Technology Secretary said the UK would look to be “nimble and innovative” with its own domestic AI regulation, to encourage more smaller AI firms to locate and grow in the UK.

“The UK is and will remain the most agile and innovative place to develop your business,” she said.

“Safety at the frontier means prosperity across the sector. We will grip the risks and we will seize those opportunities.”

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