AI Safety Summit 2023: Elon Musk Says Summit Seeks AI Referee

The first day of the world’s first ever AI Safety Summit in the UK saw two interventions from a couple of notable figures.

US vice-president Kamala Harris was quoted by the Guardian newspaper as saying in a speech before attending the summit that short-term threats posed by artificial intelligence (AI) to democracy and privacy need to be addressed as urgently as longer term existential threats.

The summit is being held at Bletchley Park, the home of the UK’s second world war codebreakers and the birthplace of modern computing. The summit is discussing the future of AI and work towards a shared understanding of its risks.

Kamala Harris

“We reject the false choice that suggests we can either protect the public or advance innovation,” the US vice-president reportedly said in London before attending the conference. “We can – and we must – do both. And we must do so swiftly, as this technology rapidly advances.”

According to the Guardian, Harris wants to advance beyond the debates about the sometimes speculative, existential threats posed by AI in the future to examine harms that are already happening, including those associated with discrimination and disinformation.

She reportedly said the existential threats are “without question, profound, and demand global action. But let us be clear: there are additional threats that also demand our action, threats that are currently causing harm and which, to many people, also feel existential.”

Harris is particularly interested in technology to combat AI-generated voice calls that may be seeking to steal from vulnerable people, the Guardian noted.

The US vice-president also wants measures to trace authentic government-produced digital content and AI-generated or manipulated content, including through digital signatures, watermarking, and other labelling techniques.

The vice president also reportedly revealed that 30 countries have agreed to sign a US-sponsored political declaration for the use of AI by national militaries. The vast bulk of the signatories are western-oriented nations.

Harris also reportedly confirmed that the US Department of Commerce would establish the United States AI Safety Institute (US AISI) that will create “guidelines, tools, benchmarks and best practices for evaluating and mitigating dangerous capabilities and conducting evaluations to identify and mitigate AI risk”.

Elon Musk

Meanwhile Elon Musk was quoted by Reuters as saying on Wednesday that the inaugural AI Safety Summit in Britain wanted to establish a “third-party referee” that could oversee companies developing artificial intelligence and sound the alarm if they have concerns.

“What we’re really aiming for here is to establish a framework for insight so that there’s at least a third-party referee, an independent referee, that can observe what leading AI companies are doing and at least sound the alarm if they have concerns,” the billionaire entrepreneur was quoted as telling reporters at Bletchley Park.

“I don’t know what necessarily the fair rules are, but you’ve got to start with insight before you do oversight,” Musk reportedly said.

Musk’s comments came after the UK published a declaration signed by 28 countries including the UK, US and China and the European Union, which set out a two-pronged agenda focused on identifying AI-related risks of shared concern, building the scientific understanding of them, and building cross-country policies to mitigate them.

“I think there’s a lot of concern among people in the AI field that the government will sort of jump the gun on rules, before knowing what to do,” Musk was quoted as saying by Reuters. “I think that’s unlikely to happen.”

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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