UK's Sunak says only governments can tackle AI risks

By Paul Sandle

LONDON (Reuters) -British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said only governments could tackle the risks posed by AI, a technology he said could make it easier to build chemical or biological weapons, spread fear and, in a worse-case scenario, escape human control.

Speaking ahead of a global gathering he has convened next week to examine the risks of the technology, Sunak said he hoped the participants could agree on the nature of the risks and establish a global panel to assess them.

Britain will set up an artificial intelligence (AI) safety institute to "examine, evaluate and test new types of AI so that we understand what each new model is capable of, exploring all the risks from social harms like bias and misinformation through to the most extreme risks," Sunak said.

Representatives of AI companies, political leaders and experts will meet at Bletchley Park - where Britain's World War Two code-breakers worked - in southern England on Nov. 1-2.

"Get this wrong, and AI could make it easier to build chemical or biological weapons," Sunak said. "And in the most unlikely but extreme cases, there is even the risk that humanity could lose control of AI completely."

Sunak wants Britain to be a global leader in AI safety, carving out a role after Brexit between the competing economic blocs of the United States, China and the European Union.

Around 100 participants at next week's meeting will discuss subjects including the unpredictable advances of AI and the potential for humans to lose control of it, according to the agenda.

Sunak said China had been invited but he could not guarantee that a representative of the country would attend.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and Google DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis are on the guest list.

Leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) economies, comprising Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain, the United States and the European Union, in May called for adoption of standards to create trustworthy AI and to set up a ministerial forum dubbed the Hiroshima AI process.

(Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by Mike Harrison, William Schomberg and Christina Fincher)