The Biggest Threat at AI Safety Summit Will be Poor Attendance

On November 1st, the first global AI safety summit will commence at Bletchley Park (pictured below) in the UK. The venue is the iconic country estate which housed the codebreakers who shortened World War 2 by years.

The summit will focus on the dominant AI narrative amongst business leaders and governments in 2023. Simply, the exponential threat to humankind posed by the increasing power of this technology. And UK PM Rishi Sunak wants to close out the year with a strong British voice within this narrative.

It may be churlish to also point out that the Conservative Party have the odds stacked heavily against them in next year’s general election. But a below par turnout of international leaders will backfire on Sunak’s spotlight grab. Main excuse for not attending? The Israel/Palestine war.

But  the PM’s blushes are the least of the world’s problems if there are too many high-profile no shows. (Personally, I’d already be blushing furiously if I’d just delivered a speech in Westminster about the Armageddon which AI will almost certainly wreak, and then in the same breath tell everyone that everything will be okay.)

No Show will Mean a No Go

No, the more damaging issue about a substantial non-attendance is that if any genuine breakthroughs in regulatory processes are achieved, there will be a partisan faction opposing them, instigated by those who were absent. It’s guaranteed because this is a hybrid get-together of business and geopolitics.

It’s doubly guaranteed because the Chinese aren’t blessing Bletchley Park with their presence. And there’s the Vice-President of the United States, Khamala Harris, who’ll just pop in after a speech she’s making in London on the same subject. As a snub, that’s not even subtle!

There also seems to be some confusion about what the summit wishes to achieve. This is not to cast aspersions on the conference itself. There’s been so much hype about it, yet little will be revealed after the delegates have gone their separate ways. It’s going to feel a little unrequited to a public who have been scared witless (rhymes with what I really wanted to write) about the spectre of AI demolishing jobs, truth and well, the entire planet.

The AI safety summit starts on Wednesday. Here’s hoping I’m completely wrong and it’s a landmark event that will save the world. But not Rishi Sunak.

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