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Rishi Sunak to press Joe Biden for UK lead on international rules for artificial intelligence

Rishi Sunak is to urge Joe Biden to back his plan for the UK to play a leading role in developing international regulations for artificial intelligence when he meets the US president in Washington next week.

It follows a warning by 350 leading figures from the AI sector this week that the technology could lead to the extinction of humanity and should be treated as the same threat as nuclear war and pandemics.

Mr Sunak is making strenuous efforts for his government to be at the international forefront of dealing with AI. At the G7 summit in Japan in May, he called for global “guardrails” to be put in place to keep a check on advanced AI, which could in theory threaten society, economics and national security.

The Prime Minister said he would raise this issue with President Biden in Washington next week.

As the government scrambles to respond to the fast-evolving technology, there are calls for AI to be placed on the UK’s National Risk Register because of the scale of the possible threat to society.

Phillip Ingram, a former military intelligence officer, told i: “I think the impact of AI on society must become a national priority and its use by bad actors become a priority in the National Risk register.”

Adding AI to the National Risk Register would classify it as something the government makes contingency plans on, in the same way it prepares for things like flooding, pandemics, terrorist attacks and nuclear weapon strikes.

The latest version of the risk register, published in 2020, does not include AI on its list but mentions it in passing.

It said: “Other technological advances, such as the development of artificial intelligence and quantum technologies, will see shifts in how our economy functions and the nature of how we work in the future. While much of this change may be beneficial, we must all remain aware of these changes and work through the implications on people and businesses in the coming years.”

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “The government will publish the updated National Risk Register soon.”

Mr Sunak said: “AI clearly can bring massive benefits to the economy and society.

“You’ve seen that recently it was helping paralysed people to walk and discovering new antibiotics. But we need to make sure this is done in a way that is safe and secure.

“That’s why I met last week with the CEOs of major AI companies to discuss what are the guardrails that we need to put in place, what’s the type of regulation that should be put in place to keep us safe.

“People will be concerned by the reports that AI poses an existential risk like pandemics or nuclear wars – I want them to be reassured that the government is looking very carefully at this.

“And I think the UK can play a leadership role because ultimately, we’re only going to grapple with this problem and solve it if we work together not just with the companies, but with countries around the world.

“It’s something that I’ve already been discussing with other leaders at the G7 summit the other week, I’ll be doing that again when I visit the US very soon.”

A Whitehall source said the Government’s White Paper on AI, published in March, was seen as much more pragmatic and forward-thinking than that from the US or EU and that ministers and officials were working hard on the next steps of dealing with the technology.

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