On June 7 and 8, 2023, UK Prime Minster, Rishi Sunak, will tell US President, Joe Biden, that Britain plans to adopt a leadership role in AI regulation following Sunak’s meeting with the CEOs of ChatGPT maker OpenAI, Google’s DeepMind and Anthropic AI.
Sunak’s previous stance on AI development was welcoming. This hasty reversal comes after in-depth G7 discussions and a statement labelling AI as an “extinction risk” to humanity comparable to “pandemics and nuclear wars” – signed by technology experts including ‘godfather of AI’ Geoffrey Hinton and ChatGPT creator Sam Altman.
Fuelled, in part, by fears of AI’s potential to significantly affect job markets, threaten the health of millions and weaponise disinformation in elections, lawmakers and global leaders are under increasing pressure to enact AI legislation.
The following timeline traces the key events in the evolution of AI regulation over the past few months.
March 29, 2023: UK government releases “pro-innovation” AI white paper
Sunak initially disregarded the dangers of AI, emphasising the technology’s potential benefits in healthcare, ecology and education. The report, released by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, outlined plans to split responsibility for AI governance between current regulators, rather than creating a new legislative body specific to the technology.
May 11, 2023: EU drafts first global AI rules
MEPs proposed an AI Act which would ban biometric identification systems, predictive policing systems and emotion recognition systems – as well as obligations for providers of large language models (LLMs). As of June 5, the Act is heading towards final negotiations.
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May 17, 2023: Sam Altman appeals to Congress for stronger AI regulation
In what Senator Dick Durbin called a “historic” moment, Open AI CEO, Sam Altman, voluntarily testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee and called on regulation to prevent AI’s potential to cause “significant harm to the world”.
May 19-21, 2023: G7 leaders call for AI “guardrails” in Hiroshima
Sunak and European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, were among those at the G7 summit to call for “guardrails” on advanced AI. Leaders reiterated support for AI innovation while saying that policies should include “protection of human rights, fundamental freedoms, privacy and personal data”.
May 24, 2023: Sunak meets with leading CEOs in AI
CEOs Sam Altman (Open AI), Demis Hassabis (DeepMind) and Dario Amodei (Anthropic AI) were invited to Downing Street to discuss the risks AI poses. Topics discussed included AI-driven disinformation, national security and existential threats. According to a government statement, the CEOs agreed to work with the UK-funded Foundation Model Taskforce.
Following the meeting, British officials spoke of a middle-of-the road UK approach to AI regulation that would be less “draconian” than EU law, but more stringent than the “blasé” attitude of the US, according to the Financial Times.
May 25, 2023: Altman threatens to pull OpenAI from the EU
Just over a week after his appearance in Congress, Altman said that his company would attempt to comply with EU regulation – but that OpenAI could “cease operating” in the European market depending on “concerns” with the new rules. Altman also claimed that the current draft was “over-regulating” and that “we have heard it’s going to get pulled back”.
May 26, 2023: Altman back-pedals on threat to leave the EU
Following MEP criticism of Altman’s comments, with Romanian member, Dragos Tudorache, telling Reuters, “I don’t see any dilution happening anytime soon”, the OpenAI CEO reversed his threat, announcing that he had “no plans to leave” the EU.
May 30, 2023: leading experts release statement on AI’s “extinction risk”
Published by the Center for AI Safety, the statement compares the risk AI poses to humanity as comparable to “pandemics and nuclear war”. Signatories included Bill Gates and Geoffrey Hinton, the so-called “godfather of AI”, who worked at Google for a decade developing AI technology. Hinton quit Google at the start of May citing deep regret over his work in an Oppenheimer-style moment.
June 7-8, 2023: Sunak and Biden to discuss “artificial intelligence pact”
During his visit to Washington DC, Sunak is expected to complete his U-turn and call for a deal between governments and companies to regulate AI. Policymakers, technology leaders and investors alike are waiting to see if the Prime Minister will stick to his promise of placing the UK at the forefront of coordinating these global guidelines.