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U.K. risks losing AI race amid safety-over-opportunity approach

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The House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee has warned that the United Kingdom’s (U.K.) approach to artificial intelligence (AI) has become too narrowly focused on AI safety and the threats the technology could pose rather than its benefits, posing a risk of losing out on the opportunities AI offers. 

In a report on AI and large language models (LLMs) – which power generative AI tools such as ChatGPT – the Lords Communications and Digital Committee said the technology would produce era-defining changes comparable with the invention of the internet.

However, the committee warned that the U.K. needs to rebalance its approach to the subject and consider the opportunities AI can offer. Otherwise, the U.K. will lose its international influence and become strategically dependent on overseas tech firms for a technology that is expected to play a vital role in daily life in the years to come.

In November, the U.K. convened the first AI Safety Summit at Bletchley Park, uniting over 25 nations, the UN, and EU. The summit focused on persistent AI risks, including its potential as an existential threat, role in advanced cyberattacks, and susceptibility to misuse in developing biological or chemical weapons by malicious actors.

The Lords Communications and Digital Committee’s report called for more significant support for AI startups, a boost for computing infrastructure, more work to improve digital skills, and further exploration of the potential for an “in-house” sovereign U.K. large language model.

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While highlighting the significant competition between developers of open and closed models in the AI sector, each striving for a regulatory framework that favors their interests, the committee recommended that the government should prioritize market competition as a key AI policy goal to prevent undue influence by any party.

Additionally, the committee document recommended supporting copyright, even if it requires new laws. The government should empower content owners to verify their data is used appropriately and invest in extensive, high-quality training data sets to encourage tech firms to use licensed material.

The document stated the need for the U.K. government to support effective regulatory oversight. The immediate priority should be to develop accredited standards and common auditing methods at pace to ensure responsible innovation, support business adoption, and enable meaningful regulatory oversight.

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