UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is hosting an AI summit in November with the aim of bringing together world leaders and tech executives to address the potential impacts, both positive and negative, of artificial intelligence. While an admirable goal, Sunak faces an uphill battle in convincing some leaders to attend and finding common ground on regulating this rapidly evolving technology.
Why Is Sunak Hosting This Summit?
Sunak has expressed concerns that AI could be “catastrophic” if misused, and he wants to position the UK as a leader in AI development and regulation. His key objectives are:
- Bring major countries together to align on AI governance
- Address risks like deepfakes disrupting elections
- Explore AI’s potential while avoiding harm
The UK published an AI strategy in 2021, and hosting this summit aligns with those goals. However, convincing busy world leaders to attend and finding consensus will be challenging.
Who’s Coming – and Who Isn’t?
- Attending: US Vice President Kamala Harris, Italian PM Giorgia Meloni, Microsoft President Brad Smith
- May attend: Chinese Premier Xi Jinping, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu
- Not attending: US President Biden, German Chancellor Scholz, French President Macron, Canadian PM Trudeau
The lack of top G7 leaders beyond host Sunak diminishes the event’s prestige. Their nations are sending lower-level delegates, showing AI isn’t a top priority. While Big Tech executives like Brad Smith will attend, the absence of key government leaders suggests achieving agreement on AI governance will be difficult.
Differing Government Perspectives
Sunak faces contrasting government viewpoints on AI regulation:
- UK: Concerned about deepfakes impacting 2023 elections, seeks measured governance
- US: Could resist strict regulation to foster trillion-dollar AI businesses
- China: Likely to favor strong state control over AI seen as critical infrastructure
Bridging these competing stances to align on shared AI principles will require deft diplomacy and compromise from Sunak. But with limited global leaders present, progress may be incremental at best.
Key Issues Up for Debate
The draft summit agenda reveals three key areas of focus:
- AI could enable increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks
- But it can also strengthen cyber defenses through pattern recognition
- AI is accelerating innovations in biotech and genetics
- But ethical risks abound, like human gene editing
3. Election Disruption
- Deepfakes could undermine free/fair elections
- Stricter social media controls may be needed
While debate will be robust, achieving consensus on complex issues like biotech ethics with limited global participation seems optimistic. Small steps toward alignment may be the summit’s realistic ceiling.
Beyond the Summit
To his credit, Sunak recognizes the epochal potential of AI and is working to get ahead of its risks. But this summit is just the opening salvo in regulating AI across borders. Sustained diplomacy, further summits, and expert working groups will be needed to align rival nations.
The UK cannot regulate AI alone – global cooperation is essential. This summit will be most successful if it sparks ongoing high-level talks between key democratic nations, not as a one-off event. Sunak should formalize a recurring summit process if results are promising.
With wise governance, AI can uplift humanity. But we must proceed judiciously and align globally to avoid catastrophic misuse. This summit will hopefully open a constructive dialogue on AI between the world’s democracies. But true progress will hinge on what comes after the summit, not just the summit itself.