Sunak bids to make UK world’s leading AI regulator on US trip

#Brexit special section Policy & Politics Technology

Rishi Sunak is hoping to convince the US president that the UK should be the world’s foremost AI (artificial intelligence) regulator during his trip to Washington.

This will be Sunak’s fourth meeting with Joe Biden in as many months and the prime minister is set to lobby the president for the UK to have a leading role as chief global AI regulator.

Post-Brexit UK has found on the sidelines and locked out of US-EU talks such as the recent Tech and Trade Council (TTC) meeting in Sweden held at the end of May.

While the US and EU recommitted to working “with like-minded partners” on emerging technologies such as AI, Politico reported in March that the White House has quietly rebuffed UK attempts for deeper dialogue with the US about AI standards and regulation.

Sunak is reportedly keen on creating a “CERN for AI”, similar to Europe’s nuclear research institute, according to the Financial Times. Another proposal is for the UK to host an international AI summit for allies to discuss AI risks and how best to regulate the technology.

Also on the agenda will be Sunak’s attempts to secure the UK leading an organisation focused on AI equivalent to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

On the eve of the Sunak’s trip to the US, the prime minister’s AI task force advisor warned that AI poses an existential threat to humanity. Matt Clifford’s comments echoed the warning issued last month by the world’s leading AI developers that he technology could be as dangerous as a nuclear war and that “mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority”.

Clifford said the risks posed by AI should be “very high on the policy makers’ agendas” given the technologies can already be used “today to create new recipes for bio weapons or to launch large scale cyber attacks”.

Before his first official visit as PM to Washington, Sunak said: “The U.S. is our closest ally. We are one another’s partner of first resort when it comes to everything from keeping our people safe to growing our economies.”

Bloomberg reports that Sunak will be “hoping his first official trip to Washington puts the [UK’s] relationship [with the US] back on a loftier footing” given his previous meetings with Biden – most notably an awkaward coffee morning in Belfast – “have so far lacked the solemnity expected of US-UK summits.”

Biden spent only half a day in Belfast during his visit to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement before spending the rest of his three day trip in the Republic of Ireland.

Prior to flying to Washington, the PM said he wanted to foster a “close and candid relationship” with the US president, adding: “on every global problem, you will see us working side-by-side.”

The pair are set to discuss bolstering economic ties although the PM’s spokesperson has already ruled out discussion about a post-Brexit free trade deal between the UK and US.

During the visit, Sunak is expected to meet with other US politicians for talks in Congress and with business leaders.

In an article – since removed from its website for breaching an embargo – the Guardian reported that the PM’s US trip “risks being overshadowed by the rapidly changing” situation in Ukraine, after a damn was damaged in an attack forcing thousands to evacuate and threatening the country’s infrastructure and utilities.

Meanwhile, Mark Wallace, writing in the i warns that If the UK chooses the “wrong kind of AI regulation, innovators will go elsewhere”.

Good regulation, for Wallace means facilitating success and managing risks rather than seeking to “eliminate them”, continuing: “Particularly in a global market, where a UK regulator cannot prevent scientists, business and investors from simply going elsewhere in search of a more positive, productive environment.”

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