Britain appoints tech expert and diplomat to spearhead AI summit

By Paul Sandle and Martin Coulter

LONDON (Reuters) -Britain has chosen tech expert Matt Clifford and former senior diplomat Jonathan Black to lead preparations for its global summit on artificial intelligence (AI) this year.

The two will rally political leaders, AI companies and experts ahead of the event this autumn, the government said on Thursday.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in June pitched Britain as a possible global leader in guardianship of safety of the fast-developing technology, saying he wanted the country to be both the intellectual and geographical home of AI regulation.

Clifford, co-founder and CEO of investment firm Entrepreneur First, told Reuters he hoped the summit would set the tone for future international debates on AI regulation.

“You can think of this as a genuine summit – where there will be really crunchy discussions happening – to try to agree on a shared understanding of the risks, and as a platform for working together on mitigating them,” he said.

Citing the success of London-based DeepMind, Clifford said the UK’s credentials to be a world leader in AI were very clear.

“But this is not about saying the UK has the one right approach that we want all countries to adopt,” he said. “There are going to be many areas of AI policy where each country needs to adopt whatever works best for them.”

Governments around the world are wrestling with how to control the potential negative consequences of AI without stifling innovation.

Sunak’s government has yet to name a specific date for the event or set out who is likely to attend.

The European Union has taken a lead with its proposed AI Act, which it hopes will become a global benchmark for the booming technology.

Other countries, however, favour a wait-and-see approach or are leaning towards a more flexible regulatory regime.

Britain has opted to split regulatory responsibility for AI between those bodies that oversee competition, human rights and health and safety, rather than creating a new body dedicated to the technology.

Leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) economies, comprising Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain, the United States and the European Union, in May called for adoption of standards to create trustworthy AI and to set up a ministerial forum dubbed the Hiroshima AI process.

(Reporting by Paul Sandle and Martin CoulterEditing by Sharon Singleton and David Goodman)