What was achieved at the AI Safety Summit 2023?

This week the UK hosted the world's first global AI Safety Summit 2023. As political leaders, top academics and tech industry figures (including Elon Musk) converged on Bletchley Park, the UK government sought to use the summit to carve out a meaningful role for the UK in what has become the world's biggest arms race.

And an arms race it is

The purpose of the event was to consider the risks of AI and discuss how they could be mitigated. The talks aimed to build an international consensus on the future of AI.

As Rishi Sunak stated in a speech ahead of the summit, the risks posed by AI are too important to be left to big tech firms. He told the BBC that governments needed to take action and AI firms could not be left to "mark their own homework".

There is concern AI models pose potential safety risks if not developed responsibly, despite the potential to cause economic growth, scientific progress and other public benefits. Elon Musk was widely quoted when warning of killer AI robots - "There is a safety concern, especially with humanoid robots - at least a car can't chase you into a building or up a tree," he told the audience during a discussion with Prime Minister Sunak.

Even King Charles has expressed concern, saying the risks of AI need to be tackled with "a sense of urgency, unity and collective strength".

What was achieved at the AI Safety Summit 2023?

The Bletchley Declaration: The summit kicked off with the announcement that the 28 participating countries and the European Union have agreed a declaration saying global action is needed to tamp down the risks of AI. The Bletchley Declaration included an agreement that substantial risks may arise from potential intentional misuse or unintended issues of control of frontier AI, with particular concern caused by cybersecurity, biotechnology and disinformation risks, according to the UK government, which oversaw the international consensus.

Won’t anyone think of the consultants?!

Despite being a technology in its infancy, AI has already had a big impact on the world. While we have grown accustomed to new technologies emerging and transforming the world quickly, the pace at which AI has changed the world is on another level. This sense of urgency was apparent at the summit.

AI has already disrupted the consultancy world significantly for example, which we explored in more detail in this article for the Digital Transformation People. I argued that AI is already disrupting the types of services that consultants deliver to the public sector. And for the more established players, who make their living with impressive-sounding theory and future-gazing, but with little implementation experience, this is not necessarily a good thing. In a scenario of such rapid change, impressive slideware and highfalutin theory no longer cuts through. Now, delivery is king.

Bear in mind there is already a 70% shortfall in the types of specialist consultancy and IT jobs needed in the public sector. This will only accelerate even further as AI transforms the world. How do you train or hire for a role that isn’t fully formed yet, or even invented?

The public sector isn't famous for the speed at which it responds to change. This needs to change. Everything being offered by the public sector is already lagging behind where the technology is. From education, to regulation and even pay, the public sector has always been playing catch up. Acknowledging the challenge and hosting a global summit is a good start. Now they need to figure out how to keep pace with the change that is coming.

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