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Global AI Summit Highlights Need for Collaborative Safety Measures Amidst China-U.S. Rivalry

In a landmark event highlighting the urgency for collaborative artificial intelligence (AI) safety measures, the U.K. is set to host a pivotal summit this week. However, the decision to include China as a participant has sparked controversy, with key figures like former British Prime Minister Liz Truss criticizing the move.

The Imperative for Global Cooperation

As the tech titans of the world convene, the message is clear: ideological divisions must not derail efforts to cement international cooperation on AI safety. The stakes are too high, as experts ring alarm bells over AI’s potential to unleash threats transcending national borders—from rogue AI systems to the misuse of AI in creating biological hazards or financial turmoil.

The Risk Perception Conundrum

The challenge facing policymakers is profound. With AI’s risks largely speculative, there’s a tendency to dismiss these as distant threats. Yet, history, as chronicled in Richard Posner’s “Catastrophe: Risk and Response,” teaches the costly lessons of underestimating unprecedented dangers—echoed starkly by the COVID-19 pandemic’s unforeseen ravages, forewarned by Bill Gates in a 2015 TED Talk.

A Lesson Unheeded: The Rush to AI Dominance

Contrary to the cautious approach recommended by MIT professors Daron Acemoglu and Todd Lensman—to gradually integrate new technologies—the U.S. and China are locked in a breakneck race for AI dominance. In the U.S., the fast pace of AI development proceeds with scant regard for public safety protocols, despite the billions poured into AI research. The recent executive order by President Joe Biden demanding AI developers to divulge safety test results marks a step toward regulatory oversight.

Escalating Tech Tensions

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Simultaneously, the U.S. intensifies efforts to stifle China’s AI capabilities, framing it as a national security concern. August saw a ban on U.S. investments in China’s AI sector, with new restrictions curtailing China’s access to essential AI components and technologies. These measures, far from crippling China’s AI advancements, may inadvertently catalyze its drive towards tech self-sufficiency, fostering a “whole-of-society” approach.

As a result, the U.S. may find itself blindsided by China’s AI progress, undermining its ability to anticipate or manage emergent AI-related threats from Chinese developments.

China’s Regulatory Calculus

China’s pioneering regulations on generative AI services are a strategic play to maintain a competitive edge over the U.S., opting to regulate public-facing services while freeing up the business sector for unfettered growth.

The tech rivalry between China and the U.S. could potentially spark a perilous ‘race to the bottom’ in AI governance, with each nation vying for supremacy at the cost of safety and oversight.

Call for Action

In the face of these looming threats, the international community’s call to action is unequivocal: global AI businesses must establish stringent safety protocols. The U.K.’s AI safety summit represents a crucial step toward fostering this critical global dialogue, emphasizing the collective responsibility to preclude an AI-induced catastrophe.

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