UK to host global AI safety summit at iconic World War II codebreaking headquarters

By on 31/08/2023 | Updated on 31/08/2023
Bletchley Park in the morning
Entrance to Bletchley Park where the UK government will host the world's first global AI summit in November. Photo: Lyza

The UK government has announced it will host an inaugural global AI safety summit in November at the iconic Bletchley Park, where British codebreakers famously cracked the ‘Enigma’ code during World War II.

UK prime minister Rishi Sunak first set out plans for the UK to host the summit in June, amid growing concerns around AI. Sunak said that world leaders should view the technology through the same humanitarian lens as climate change. “We need to bring that same spirit of urgency, I think, to the challenges and opportunities that AI poses because the pace of technological change is faster than people had anticipated,” he said at the time.

Read more: Treat AI with ‘same spirit of urgency’ as climate change, says UK PM

Speaking on the upcoming summit, Sunak reiterated the need for leaders to “grip and tackle the risks to ensure [AI] develops safely in the years ahead”.

Announcing the summit would be held from 1-2 November, Sunak said: “With the combined strength of our international partners, thriving AI industry and expert academic community, we can secure the rapid international action we need for the safe and responsible development of AI around the world.”

The summit will invite academics and executives from Google’s DeepMind, Microsoft, Open AI and Anthropic to cover topics such as automation, misinformation and existential risks surrounding AI, and the UK government preparations are now well underway.

Sunak has named Matt Clifford, the chief executive of Entrepreneur First and chair of the Advanced Research and Invention Agency, and Jonathan Black, the Heywood fellow at the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford and former UK G7 and G20 Sherpa and deputy national security adviser, as his representatives to coordinate preparations for the summit.

The UK government said it would spearhead talks and negotiations, as it rallies leading AI nations and experts to ensure the summit provides a platform for countries to work together on further developing a shared approach to agreeing the safety measures needed to mitigate the risks of AI.

Read more: AI ‘to quicken UK government decision-making’

Many governments are engaged in exploring the development of AI both in government and wider society.

In May, the UK joined six other members of the G7 in acknowledging their shared concerns around AI, which touched on the need to ensure the future of AI is based on trust and what leaders described as “shared democratic values”.

Then, in July, the head of the Central Intelligence Agency William Burns delivered the annual Ditchley Lecture, in which he said that harnessing the power of AI represented “the most profound transformation of espionage tradecraft since the Cold War”.

UK invests in chips for AI

Alongside Sunak’s announcement of the date for the AI summit, the UK government also announced it is preparing to invest £100m (US$126.3m) in computer chips to help build a national AI Research Resource.

The push to develop an AI Research Resource has been spearheaded by UK Research and Innovation and is part of the government’s wider aim to make the UK a global leader in AI technology. It is expected to be operational by summer of 2024.

Government officials have sought assistance from several major tech firms, including Nvidia, AMD and Intel to acquire the parts needed to make the research project a success.

According to the Telegraph newspaper, the government ordered 5,000 GPUs (processors often used in 3D image rendering) from Nvidia, whose chips trained ChatGPT.

This is the latest UK government investment in AI capability. At the start of August this year, the UK government allocated £13m (US$16.4m) to accelerate AI-assisted healthcare research, and in March, Sunak announced £370m (US$440m) in combined funding for AI research and a new quantum computing research centre.

Read more: AI threatens two-thirds of civil service jobs, warns UK’s former government HR chief

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About Jack Aldane

Jack is a British journalist, cartoonist and podcaster. He graduated from Heythrop College London in 2009 with a BA in philosophy, before living and working in China for three years as a freelance reporter. After training in financial journalism at City University from 2013 to 2014, Jack worked at Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters before moving into editing magazines on global trade and development finance. Shortly after editing opinion writing for UnHerd, he joined the independent think tank ResPublica, where he led a media campaign to change the health and safety requirements around asbestos in UK public buildings. As host and producer of The Booking Club podcast – a conversation series featuring prominent authors and commentators at their favourite restaurants – Jack continues to engage today’s most distinguished thinkers on the biggest problems pertaining to ideology and power in the 21st century. He joined Global Government Forum as its Senior Staff Writer and Community Co-ordinator in 2021.

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