AI Safety Summit: Major nations sign cooperation agreement recognising technology’s ‘potential for catastrophic harm’

PM Rishi Sunak calls declaration a ‘landmark achievement’, but tech billionaire airs concerns that governments may act prematurely in setting rules to address ‘one of the biggest threats to humanity’

A total of 28 major nations – including the UK, US and China – have signed a cooperation agreement to work together to tackle the risks created by artificial intelligence.

Unveiled yesterday at the government’s AI Safety Summit, the Bletchley Declaration – named after the town hosting the event – was also signed by the European Union, as well as by many of its biggest member states.

The declaration opens by stating that “AI presents enormous global opportunities [and] has the potential to transform and enhance human wellbeing, peace and prosperity”.

But the primary aim of the agreement is address the “significant risks” created by the technology – particular those arising from the capabilities of “frontier AI” – the term applied by the government to “highly capable general-purpose AI models”.

“We are especially concerned by such risks in domains such as cybersecurity and biotechnology, as well as where frontier AI systems may amplify risks such as disinformation,” the declaration states. “There is potential for serious, even catastrophic, harm, either deliberate or unintentional, stemming from the most significant capabilities of these AI models. Given the rapid and uncertain rate of change of AI, and in the context of the acceleration of investment in technology, we affirm that deepening our understanding of these potential risks and of actions to address them is especially urgent.”

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Cooperation over the coming months and years will focus on two core objectives, the first of which will be identifying risks of AI common across all signatory nations and then working to create a “shared scientific and evidence-based understanding of these risks”.

The second focus are will be establishing “respective risk-based policies across our countries to ensure safety in light of such risks”.

“Many risks arising from AI are inherently international in nature, and so are best addressed through international cooperation,” the declaration adds. “We resolve to work together in an inclusive manner to ensure human-centric, trustworthy and responsible AI that is safe, and supports the good of all through existing international fora and other relevant initiatives, to promote cooperation to address the broad range of risks posed by AI. In doing so, we recognise that countries should consider the importance of a pro-innovation and proportionate governance and regulatory approach that maximises the benefits and takes into account the risks associated with AI.”

Alongside the UK and EU, the nations that signed the declaration are: Australia; Brazil; Canada; Chile; China; France; Germany; India; Indonesia; Ireland; Israel; Italy; Japan; Kenya; Netherlands; Nigeria; The Philippines; Republic of Korea; Rwanda; Saudi Arabia; Singapore; Spain; Switzerland; Türkiye; Ukraine; United Arab Emirates; and the US.

Prime minister Rishi Sunak said: “This is a landmark achievement that sees the world’s greatest AI powers agree on the urgency behind understanding the risks of AI – helping ensure the long-term future of our children and grandchildren.”

Sam Trendall

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