Rishi Sunak meets world leaders and tech firms at AI summit

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Rishi Sunak held talks with world leaders, including European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen
By Becky Morton
Political reporter

Rishi Sunak is meeting world leaders and tech firms at the UK’s first AI safety summit, after warning companies cannot “mark their own homework”.

Ahead of the summit, the prime minister told the BBC managing the risks posed by artificial intelligence was too important to be left to big tech firms.

Around 100 world leaders, tech bosses and academics are attending.

On Wednesday delegates agreed a joint statement calling for global cooperation to tackle the risks of AI.

The Bletchley Declaration – named after Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire, where the summit is being held – was signed by 28 countries, including the US and China, as well as the European Union.

The agreement recognised that AI “presents enormous global opportunities” but said it should be developed in a way that is “human-centric, trustworthy and responsible”.

It was the world’s first ever international statement on so-called frontier AI – the government’s term for AI that could exceed the capabilities of today’s most advanced systems.

The focus of the summit is on how to mitigate the risks of AI, which include potential breaches to privacy and the displacement of jobs, while maximising the benefits.

Earlier on Thursday, Mr Sunak held talks with United Nations secretary general Antonio Guterres, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni.

The prime minister said he would also discuss the situation in Gaza, as well as AI.

It comes after a meeting with US vice president Kamala Harris on Wednesday.

Later he is due to give a press conference before travelling back to Westminster for an “in conversation” event with tech billionaire Elon Musk, who owns X, formerly known as Twitter.

Mr Musk arrived at the summit on Wednesday morning, after warning that AI could lead to the extinction of humanity, although many experts consider such warnings overblown.

‘Diplomatic coup’

Ahead of the summit, there had been concerns some key figures, including US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron, had chosen not to attend, with their countries sending alternative representatives instead.

However, Tino Cuellar, president of think tank the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, called the summit a “diplomatic coup” for the UK government.

He said it was “a remarkable achievement” to bring together representatives from the US and EU, as well as the developing world.

Some had criticised the inclusion of China at a time of tense relations with West, despite the country being a key player in AI technology.

But Mr Cuellar said: “The presence of China is important because it does provide an indication that this will be a truly global conversation.

“We think about the countries that are facing opportunity in terms of their own economic development, as well as countries that bring to the table, serious technological know how, and it’s hard to imagine how some of those conversations can happen without the full representation of countries around the world.”

Meanwhile, Labour has called for binding regulation on companies developing powerful AI.

The party said a Labour government would introduce requirements for firms to report before they train models over a certain capability threshold and conduct safety testing on models, with independent oversight.

Shadow technology secretary Peter Kyle criticised the prime minister for previously saying he would not “rush to regulate” AI, arguing the UK was being “left behind”.

Mr Sunak has argued the UK’s approach should be proportionate, while encouraging innovation.

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