Elon Musk warns world to 'prepare for the worst' on AI at UK summit

A new agreement signed by 28 countries at a global summit in Bletchley Park laid the groundwork for the safe development of new technology. ITV News' Harry Horton reports

Billionaire Elon Musk has warned the world to "hope for the best but prepare for the worst" from Artificial Intelligence, as he attended a UK summit aimed at regulating the technology.

The Tesla and X owner, who has previously raised concerns about the growth of artificial intelligence and its potential threat to humanity, is due to have a meeting with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak after the summit concludes on Thursday.

Speaking at the summit, he told broadcasters: "A little bit of fear [of AI] is probably wise... my personal opinion is that AI is at least 80% likely to be beneficial and perhaps 20% dangerous, although this is obviously speculative at this point.

"If we hope for the best but prepare for the worst, that seems a wise course of action.

"The very worst could be extremely bad but i think the probability of extremely bad is low."

He is joined at the gathering by US Vice President Kamala Harris, who warned in a speech on Wednesday afternoon of the "existential threats" posed by AI.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak accepted "no one can know with certainty about those kinds of risks, but people have said there is a potential for AI to pose risks that are like pandemics or nuclear wars".

"Even if its a small possibility, - and there is uncertainty about that because many experts say that is not remotely going to happen, but even if its a small possibility, because its such a significant risk, it's right that leaders like me take steps to protect our countries.

Rishi Sunak on the risks posed by AI:

Watch Rishi Sunak’s full interview with ITV News on the Peston programme, live at 9pm on X at @itvpeston, or at 10:45pm on ITV

The summit - which is also being attended by representatives from Amazon, Google, Meta and Microsoft - was opened with a video from King Charles, who urged the international community to develop a way to mitigate the risks AI poses.

He said: "If we are to realise the untold benefits of AI, then we must work together on combatting its significant risks too.

"AI continues to advance with ever greater speed toward models which some predict could surpass human abilities, even human understanding.

"There is a clear imperative to ensure that this rapidly evolving technology remains safe and secure, and because AI does not respect international boundaries, this mission demands international coordination and collaboration."

'We must work to combat risks of AI': King Charles opens AI summit with video message

Mr Sunak called the summit in an attempt to push for the UK to play a major international role in AI regulation, but Ms Harris will stress that the US will continue to have a global leadership role on the issue.

Ms Harris is there instead of Harris President Biden, while Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz are also not likely to attend.

She announced the creation by Joe Biden’s administration of the US AI Safety Institute, which the White House said will work alongside its UK counterpart.

Addressing an audience including former prime minister Theresa May, tech executives and opposition figures, Ms Harris said: “Just as AI has the potential to do profound good, it also has the potential to cause profound harm, from AI-enabled cyber attacks at a scale beyond anything we have seen before to AI-formulated bioweapons that could endanger the lives of millions.

“These threats are often referred to as the ‘existential threats of AI’, because they could endanger the very existence of humanity.

“These threats are, without question, profound, and demand global action.

“But let us be clear: there are additional threats that also demand our action, threats that are currently causing harm and which, to many people, also feel existential.”

Examples she gave included a senior being “kicked off his healthcare plan because of a faulty AI algorithm”, a woman being “threatened by an abusive partner with explicit deep fake photographs”, and people around the world being unable to “discern fact from fiction because of a flood of AI-enabled mis- and disinformation”.

The summit is being held at Bletchley Park. Credit: PA

She welcomed voluntary commitments made by tech firms on the use of AI, but noted that legislation could be needed to ensure safety.

“As history has shown, in the absence of regulation and strong government oversight some technology companies choose to prioritise profit over the wellbeing of their customers, the security of our communities and the stability of our democracies,” she said.

“One important way to address these challenges — in addition to the work we have already done — is through legislation, legislation that strengthens AI safety without stifling innovation.”

Downing Street brushed off suggestions the vice president’s speech could overshadow proceedings in Bletchley, saying her UK visit for the summit is “great”.

A No 10 source said: “It’s all part of it. V pleased we have such a strong cast list from diplomatic and business community in the UK talking about AI.”

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