The UK government’s upcoming AI Safety Summit is to be held at the one of the birthplaces of computer science.

The UK government announced that the iconic and world famous Bletchley Park will host the “major global event” on 1 and 2 November 2023.

The AI Safety Summit is the first major international summit of its kind on the safe use of artificial intelligence, and will host talks “to explore and build consensus on rapid, international action to advance safety at the frontier of AI technology.”

AI Safety Summit

The summit will be attended by international governments, leading AI companies and experts in research.

The government said that Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire is a significant location in the history of computer science development and once the home of British Enigma codebreaking.

Indeed, it is widely accepted that Bletchley Park is where the world’s first programmable and digital computer (Colossus) was built.

EDSAC I, nearly complete

The government said preparations for the summit are already in full flow, after it recently appointed Matt Clifford and Jonathan Black as the Prime Minister’s Representatives.

Jonathan Black is a leading diplomat, Heywood Fellow at the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford, and former UK G7 and G20 Sherpa and Deputy National Security Adviser.

Tech expert Matt Clifford is CEO of investment firm Entrepreneur First, and Chair of the Advanced Research and Invention Agency. Clifford is one of the only private sector representatives to be appointed to this kind of diplomatic role.

Together they’ll spearhead talks and negotiations, as they rally leading AI nations and experts over the next three months to ensure the summit provides a platform for countries to work together on further developing a shared approach to agree the safety measures needed to mitigate the risks of AI.

No better place

“The UK has long been home to the transformative technologies of the future, so there is no better place to host the first ever global AI safety summit than at Bletchley Park this November,” said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Rishi Sunak at London Tech Week 2022. Image credit: Rishi Sunak/Twitter

“To fully embrace the extraordinary opportunities of artificial intelligence, we must grip and tackle the risks to ensure it develops safely in the years ahead,” said the Prime Minister.

Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan pointed out that international collaboration is the cornerstone of the UK approach to AI regulation, and it wants the summit to result in leading nations and experts agreeing on a shared approach to its safe use.

The summit will also build on ongoing work at international forums including the OECD, Global Partnership on AI, Council of Europe, and the UN and standards-development organisations, as well as the recently agreed G7 Hiroshima AI Process.

Donelan said the UK boasts strong credentials as a world leader in AI as the tech employs over 50,000 people, and contributes £3.7 billion to the economy.

The UK is also the birthplace of leading AI companies such as Google DeepMind.

“No country will be untouched by AI, and no country alone will solve the challenges posed by this technology. In our interconnected world, we must have an international approach,” said Foreign Secretary James Cleverly. “The origins of modern AI can be traced back to Bletchley Park. Now, it will also be home to the global effort to shape the responsible use of AI.”

Immensely privileged

Meanwhile Bletchley Park Trust welcomed the government announcement.

CEO, Iain Standen said “Bletchley Park Trust is immensely privileged to have been chosen as the venue for the first major international summit on AI safety this November, and we look forward to welcoming the world to our historic site.

“It is fitting that the very spot where leading minds harnessed emerging technologies to influence the successful outcome of World War Two will, once again, be the crucible for international co-ordinated action,” said Standen.

“We are incredibly excited to be providing the stage for discussions on global safety standards, which will help everyone manage and monitor the risks of artificial intelligence,” said Standen.

“The roots of AI can be traced back to the leading minds who worked at Bletchley during the Second World War, with codebreakers Jack Good and Donald Michie among those who went on to write extensive works on the technology,” said Standen. “In November, it will once again take centre stage as the international community comes together to agree on important guardrails which ensure the opportunities of AI can be realised, and its risks safely managed.”

To be able to host this event of global importance, Bletchley Park will be closed to the public from Saturday 28 October to Friday 3 November 2023 inclusive.

Thames Valley Police will contact impacted local residents.

UK lead

The summit comes after multiple calls from some AI experts about real world risks of ungoverned development of AI systems in the years ahead.

Last month the issue of AI was discussed the United Nations Security Council, as nations and governments around the world grapple over its regulation and governance.

The UK under Prime Minister Rishi Sunak agreed with President Biden in June to host an international summit on the risks and regulation of AI later this year.

The UK PM also said he wanted the UK to be the “geographical home” of coordinated international efforts to regulate AI.

The UK has already set out its plan to regulate the artificial intelligence (AI) sector and proposed five principles to guide its use via its “adaptable” AI plan, so as to not stifle innovation.

Other governments and nations are at different states of proposed legislation of the technology.

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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