Twenty-eight countries, including the U.S., China, and E.U. nations, have signed a joint agreement on the future direction of AI development. The move is a direct response to increasing concerns about the potential negative consequences of unrestrained AI.
The international community reached a consensus on Wednesday during the U.K.’s AI Summit held at Bletchley Park. The site was home to British code-creakers, including Alan Turing, during World War II and is often considered the birthplace of computing.
Prime Minister Sunak
The Bletchley Declaration brings nations from across the world together to recognize not only the risks of AI but also its huge potential for the common good.
“AI should be designed, developed, deployed, and used in a manner that is safe, in such a way as to be human-centric, trustworthy, and responsible,” states the document.
U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak talked up the significance of the agreement following the event.
“This landmark declaration marks the start of a new global effort to build public trust in AI by making sure it’s safe,” said Sunak on X.
To further this agenda, the agreement states, “We resolve to support an internationally inclusive network of scientific research on frontier AI safety that encompasses and complements existing and new multilateral, plurilateral, and bilateral collaboration.”
What precisely this amounts to or what happens next remains unclear. The AI Summit and Bletchley Declaration make for busy work for Sunak.
Sunak is generally more comfortable on the world stage than at home, attempting to lead on everything from security issues to climate change and on cutting-edge technologies including cryptocurrency, central bank digital currencies, and AI.
The AI summit marks another happy distraction for a British Prime Minister whose favorability rating fell to a record low of -45 in September.
The game of politics
PM Sunak must deal with the messy business of politics both at home and abroad, even in his moment of success.
As MetaNews reported on Wednesday, 100 labor organizations have criticized Sunak for his failure to include civil society organizations in the summit.
According to an open letter written to the PM, “the summit has marginalized the communities and workers most affected by AI.”
The U.K.’s Labour Party (the main political rival to Sunak’s Conservative Party) was born from the Labor movement, so criticism from this quarter is hardly unexpected.
Only slightly more surprisingly, the U.K. found itself upstaged by the U.S. even before the ink had dried on its Bletchley declaration. As part of its original plans, officials had hoped that Britain could lead the way with an international AI institute based in the United Kingdom.
Sunak failed to gain consensus on this particular issue, eventually dropping the matter from the final declaration.
At a separate event just miles away, it soon became clear why. U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris confirmed that the U.S. has plans for an AI institute of its own.
For British politicians who continually cling to the “very special relationship” between the U.K. and the U.S., the announcement marked another very special slap in the face.
— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) October 30, 2023
A date with Elon Musk
The U.K.’s AI summit will culminate in a meeting between Sunak and billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk.
Musk has consistently warned about the dangers of unfettered AI development. In March, the entrepreneur signed an open letter demanding a pause on the development of AI.
“AI labs and independent experts should use this pause to jointly develop and implement a set of shared safety protocols for advanced AI design and development that are rigorously audited and overseen by independent outside experts,” said the letter.
A slick marketing campaign is promoting the event. On Sunak’s X account, an image of the famous black door of Number 10 Downing Street shows the white numerals ‘10’ transformed into the X logo of Musk’s social media platform.
Critics have labeled the meeting “undemocratic,” suggesting that this is the perfect visual representation of the undue influence of big business on the political sphere.
The conversation between Musk and Sunak will be broadcast on X. Open AI’s Sam Altman and Meta’s Nick Clegg will also attend the event.
Full list of signatories to the Bletchley Declaration
Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, Nigeria, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United States of America.