UK's regulatory approach to AI continues to shift
The UK’s AI strategy
Rishi Sunak’s Tech Week speech on AI, given on 12 June 2023, continued a policy shift away from an innovation-first approach, in favour of greater regulation in light of growing safety concerns associated with the development and use of Artificial Intelligence ("AI"). However, Mr Sunak stressed that any such regulation would remain balanced, and would be developed alongside leading AI companies. The shift in policy reflects the ongoing tension faced by governments seeking to exploit the benefits of AI whilst ensuring that safety concerns are appropriately managed through regulation.
During his speech, Mr Sunak outlined three pillars of UK government policy on AI:
- Encouraging continued research and development and funding for AI.
- Leading global cooperation to create safeguards for AI development.
- Harnessing AI for economic growth and for better policy delivery within the public sector.
Mr Sunak also took the opportunity to talk about the upcoming Global AI Safety Summit later this year, as part of his broader vision to transform the UK into an intellectual and geographical home of global AI safety regulation.
The speech builds upon remarks from a recent trip to the United States during which Mr Sunak pushed for the creation of an international framework for the safe and reliable development and use of AI.
The latest comments underscore the UK government's increased focus on global AI safety and its desire for the UK to stake a leading role in both the innovation and regulation of AI.
The UK government has achieved recent successes in the AI space, attracting Palantir, Anthropic, and OpenAI to establish a presence in the UK. In addition, OpenAI, Google, and Anthropic have agreed to voluntarily provide the government with early access to their models for research and safety purposes and to allow government to better understand the opportunities and risks of those systems.
However, whether a harmonious approach to global AI regulation can be achieved remains to be seen, with the EU continuing to advance its proposed AI Act and other countries introducing legislation specifically targeting the development and use of AI. This has sparked concerns that regulators could stifle innovation, with Open AI CEO Sam Altman commenting that his company may not be able to operate in a jurisdiction such as the EU if they are unable to comply with new laws. Mr Sunak might therefore be hoping that a balanced approach on regulation can avoid such an outcome and position the UK to take advantage of the AI revolution.