(Bloomberg) -- Rishi Sunak said the UK is well placed to play a leading role in the international regulation of artificial intelligence, which he plans to discuss with President Joe Biden in his first visit as prime minister to the White House.
Sunak wants Britain to have a larger role in the AI debate and harbors hopes of establishing a global watchdog in London. But critics argue that, just as it does on trade, the UK’s post-Brexit status outside the much larger European Union has diminished its influence. It was not included when US and EU officials gathered to discuss rules and safeguards in Sweden last month.
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In a round of broadcast interviews in Washington on Wednesday, Sunak denied that British influence was waning, and pointed to his meeting last month with the CEOs of OpenAI, DeepMind and Anthropic as evidence he is already taking a “leadership role.”
“We should have confidence in our country being a leader when it comes to AI because that’s what the facts demonstrate,” he told the BBC. “If you look at the number of companies, the amount invested and the quality of our research, other than the US there’s no other democratic country that has that strength.”
Generative AI tools have come under increased scrutiny as their popular use has accelerated, following the debut of OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Microsoft Corp. has incorporated AI technology into its Bing search product, and Alphabet Inc.’s Google released its rival Bard chatbot in March. Biden hosted leaders from those and other leading firms at the White House in May.
The rapid development of the technology has prompted concerns about the risks it could pose. A number of prominent tech industry figures including OpenAI CEO Sam Altman have warned about dangers including the technology’s potential to help spread disinformation.
Sunak’s own AI adviser, Matt Clifford, told TalkTV on Monday the technology has the potential to “create new recipes for bioweapons or to launch large scale cyber attacks” that in two years could “kill many humans.”
The UK government is exploring rules to protect against those risks, while EU lawmakers have been drafting an AI Act for the bloc.
“I want to make sure that we in the UK can realize the clear benefits of AI, whether that’s in drug discovery or in other areas,” Sunak told the BBC. “But at the same time, we’ve got to put guardrails in place to protect ourselves.”
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