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AI needs safety ‘guardrails’, says Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak
Image credit: Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street.

The UK will lead on limiting the risks of AI but a global approach to regulation is needed, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said.

Speaking on the plane to Japan for the G7 summit, where AI will be discussed, Sunak said that AI is beneficial to the UK but must be introduced “safely and securely with guardrails in place”.

“We have taken a deliberately iterative approach because the technology is evolving quickly and we want to make sure that our regulation can evolve as it does as well,” said Sunak.

He added: “I think that the UK has a track record of being in a leadership position and bringing people together, particularly in regard to technological regulation in the online safety bill … And again, the companies themselves, in that instance as well, have worked with us and looked to us to provide those guard rails as they will do and have done on AI.”

The comments show a more cautious approach than previously seen from Sunak, who has previously highlighted the benefits of AI over the risks.

Last month, Sunak announced an AI taskforce backed by £100m in government funding to “accelerate” the UK’s generative AI sector and keep pace with rapid advances in technologies like ChatGPT.

Speaking at the inaugural Business Connect summit earlier this month, Sunak said the taskforce will be filled with experts – and styled on the Covid Vaccine Taskforce – to look at areas such as access to talent, regulation and competitiveness.

Speaking at a media huddle that included UKTN, he said: “Governments can’t wish this away and pretend it’s not happening – it’s right that they engage with it properly because we need to get the balance right between supporting innovation and protecting ourselves against risk, and the government needs to be active in that.”

It comes as regulators and lawmakers are jumping into action over the possible dangers of AI. The UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said earlier this month it would look at the foundation models behind AI tools and publish its findings in a report expected in September.

In April, Italy became the first Western country to ban ChatGPT. In the US this week, Sam Altman, CEO of ChatGPT’s creator OpenAI, called on US lawmakers to regulate AI as he testified before the US Senate about the opportunities and risks of the technology.

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