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AI can shape the future of Britain


Press Release12th June 2023

The UK has an opportunity to lead the world in establishing the framework for safe AI and must act now, according to a new report on the opportunities and risks of AI, published today by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change as part of the Future of Britain initiative.

The new report, ‘A New National Purpose: AI Promises A World-Leading Future of Britain’ co-authored by Tony Blair and William Hague, provides a comprehensive plan for what the UK needs to do to radically change the way government uses data and technology to drive down the cost of public services, while improving outcomes for the public.

It outlines how the UK can chart a course to becoming an AI superpower with practical steps including:

  • Increasing the UK’s compute capacity to be ten times greater than currently envisaged.

  • Improving government capacity to reach exascale computing – ultra-powerful supercomputing - within a year, rather than 2026.

  • Diverting funds towards science-and-technology infrastructure.

  • Overhauling government machinery.

  • Establishing a national laboratory to work with the private sector and other nations.

  • Working with the United States and other allies to push for a new UN framework on urgent safeguards.

  • Tackling the immediate threat of widespread disinformation.

  • Working with the European Union to develop a model of regulation aligned with US standards that becomes highly attractive for startups, bringing talent and investment to the country.

In a joint foreword, Tony Blair and William Hague said:

“This report describes what this country will need to do to be a world leader in the safe and successful development of artificial intelligence, a matter becoming so urgent and important that how we respond is more likely than anything else to determine Britain’s future.

“Society is about to be radically reshaped, requiring a more strategic state and a fundamental change in how we plan for the future. These ideas are intended to help all political parties find the best way forward, with the necessary speed and sense of priority, in a period of dramatic change and opportunity that has already begun.”

Lead author Benedict Macon-Cooney said:

“AI is an era-defining technology and the nations that can harness its potential will be the ones to define the future.

“We’re racing against time and every step and decision has to be taken at speed but with clear goals; to put in place critical, foundational AI infrastructure and to drive the growth of the next generation of superstar companies.

“Existing institutional approaches to AI are not working and the UK cannot miss out on the wave of innovation that safe, democratic AI can bring. By investing in talent, public data and promoting research, the UK can become a leader in the deployment of these technologies into the real world for the public good.”

The report calls for urgent steps in three areas:

1. Major changes in how government is organised, works with the private sector, promotes research, draws on expertise and receives advice. Recommendations to achieve this include:

  • Securing multi-decade investment in science-and-technology infrastructure and talent and research programmes by reprioritising large amounts of capital expenditure.

  • Boosting how Number 10 operates, dissolving the AI Council and empowering the Foundation Model Taskforce by having it report directly to the Prime Minister.

  • Sharpening the Office for Artificial Intelligence so that it provides better foresight function and agility for government to deal with technological change.

2. Build UK as a leader in the development of safe, reliable and cutting-edge AI – in collaboration with its allies. Recommendations to achieve this include creating Sentinel, a national laboratory effort focused on researching and testing safe AI, with the aim of becoming the “brain” for both a UK and an international AI regulator.

3. Pioneer the deployment and use of this technology in the real world, building next-generation companies and creating a 21st-century strategic state. Recommendations to achieve this include:

  • Launching major AI-talent programmes.

  • Requiring a tiered-access approach to compute provision under which access to larger amounts of compute comes with additional requirements to demonstrate responsible use.

  • Requiring generative-AI companies to label the synthetic media they produce as deepfakes and social-media platforms to remove unlabelled deepfakes.

  • Building AI-era infrastructure, including compute capacity and remodelling data as a public asset with the creation of highly valuable, public-good data sets.

The report follows A New National Purpose: Innovation Can Power the Future of Britain, published in February 2023, which set out how the United Kingdom could be at the forefront of breakthroughs in science and technology.

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