Matthew Clifford, the CEO for Entrepreneur First, is an AI tech adviser to the prime minister and was featured on the front of The Times this week for apparently suggesting that powerful AI systems would launch bioweapon and cyberattacks in the near future.
His comments were taken from a TalkTV interview, but Clifford said the report - which was echoed in much of the UK media - do not reflect what he said.
In the interview, Clifford said society and regulators had two years to get a "framework" in place that will help us control these "very large models" than is possible today.
Asked what the timeframe is, he said: "The truth is no one knows. There are very broad ranges of predictions among Al experts.
“I think two years would be at the very most bullish end of the spectrum, the closest moment.”
He added that some experts believed it could be decades.
Clifford said that AI systems are “getting more and more capable at an ever increasing rate”, adding: “If we don't start to think about now how to regulate and how to think about safety then in two years time we will be finding we have systems that are very powerful indeed."
On Twitter, Clifford said that the short and long-term risks of AI “are real”, and warned: “It’s right to think hard and urgently about mitigating them, but there’s a wide range of views and a lot of nuance here, which it’s important to be able to communicate.”
UK to host AI summit
Clifford's comments came ahead of Sunak's discussions around the issue of AI with president Joe Biden while in the United States, in which he announced the UK will host the first global summit on AI safety.
The summit, which will be held in the autumn, will consider the need for international co-ordinated action to mitigate the risks of the emerging technology.
Ahead of Thursday’s meeting with Biden, Sunak said: “AI has an incredible potential to transform our lives for the better. But we need to make sure it is developed and used in a way that is safe and secure.
“Time and time again throughout history we have invented paradigm-shifting new technologies and we have harnessed them for the good of humanity.
“That is what we must do again.”
Recent weeks have seen experts from the Centre for AI Safety warn that “mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war”.
Sunak acknowledged the grim forecasts but said he wanted to avoid “scaremongering” about the technology.
He added: “Of course there are transformative things that AI can do, and you’ve seen that recently when it’s helping those who are paralysed or whether it’s discovering new drugs.
“But we need to make sure that we protect the country from the risks that it poses as well.”
Sunak dismissed the suggestion there was little that a mid-sized country such as the UK could achieve in dealing with AI.
“That mid-size country happens to be a global leader in AI,” he said.
“You would be hard pressed to find many other countries other than the US in the western world with more expertise and talent in AI.”