The world has two years to stop artificial intelligence (AI) from threatening the human race , Rishi Sunak’s adviser on the technology has warned.
Matt Clifford, the Prime Minister’s AI task force adviser, said there are “all sorts of risks now and in the future” from the “pretty scary” technology and these should be “very high on the policy makers’ agendas”.
He said chief among these risks was that “we effectively create a new species … an intelligence that is greater than humans” and warned that “you can use AI today to create new recipes for bio weapons or to launch large scale cyber attacks”.
He compared the current situation to “the January 2020 moment in Covid”, where the technology is developing at an “exponential” rate but many are complacent because it “sounds so sci-fi today to a lot of people”.
‘Regulate them on a global scale’
In May, the bosses of the world’s biggest AI laboratories issued a joint statement, signed by more than 350 executives and researchers, that said technologies such as ChatGPT could be as dangerous as nuclear war , adding that “mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority”.
Asked on Talk TV’s First Edition with Tom Newton Dunn whether he agreed with a warning from Elon Musk about the risk of the human race being threatened by machines, Mr Clifford, who also chairs the Government’s Advanced Research and Invention Agency, said the risk was “not zero”.
“If we go back to things like the bio weapons or the cyber, you can have really very dangerous threats to humans that could kill many humans, not all humans, simply from where we’d expect models to be in two years’ time,” he said.
“I think that’s really the thing to focus on now is how do we make sure that we know how to control these models because right now we don’t and how we do we have some sort of path to regulate them on a global scale because it’s not enough I think to regulate them nationally.”
But he said this was “certainly not inevitable” and that “very powerful systems that are safe and robust” would help with “curing diseases, making the economy more productive, helping us get to a carbon neutral economy”.
“It’s very hard to imagine that the Chinese government doesn’t want to do that,” he added.
Mr Sunak is to push for an “artificial intelligence pact” between governments and companies in talks with Joe Biden this week when he flies to Washington DC, having also met the chief executives of major AI companies recently.