Donelan asserts UK ‘leads the way’ as US AI safety deal signed

The respective AI Safety Institutes of the US and UK have signed a cooperation agreement committing to the responsible development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology.

Signed by UK Technology Secretary, Michelle Donelan, and US Commerce Secretary, Fina Raimondo, in Washington on Monday, the bilateral agreement focuses on sharing knowledge, information and talent on AI safety.

The UK AI Safety Institute was launched by Donelan back in January whilst the executive leadership team of its US counterpart was confirmed by Raimondo in February. However, the US institution has yet to launch.

Once the US AI Safety Institute commences operations, the duo will commit to exchanging expertise to minimise AI risks including evaluation of private AI models, such as that used by ChatGPT operator OpenAI.

Donelan remarked: “The next year is when we’ve really got to act quickly because the next generation of models are coming out, which could be complete game-changers, and we don’t know the full capabilities that they will offer yet. 

“The fact that the United States, a great AI powerhouse, is signing this agreement with us, the United Kingdom, speaks volumes for how we are leading the way on AI safety.”

The partnership will be modelled on the relationship between the UK’s GCHQ and the US National Security Agency (NSA), the two countries’ respective signals and information intelligence agencies. 

This duo have a history of collaboration dating back to early stages of the Cold War, with operations ramping up significantly during the 2000s’ War on Terror. This period saw extensive – and sometimes controversial – information and data sharing between the two agencies.

As noted by Donelan, the US is an ‘AI powerhouse’, with the country home to OpenAI as well as a number of other Big Tech giants with significant interests in the technologies development – Google, Microsoft, and Apple to name some.

The tech centres of Silicon Valley have been instrumental in AI development. On the other side of the Atlatnic, the UK government and businesses have been stepping up their own investments in AI, however.

In last year’s Autumn budget, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, announced plans for a £500m investment in the British tech sector, particularly AI. In the following Spring Budget, he asserted that the UK is set to become ‘the next Silicon Valley’.

Amidst this optimism for AI’s potential as an economic growth driver there is also caution. Concerns have often been raised about the possible risks AI poses, with employment often raised.

In the US, President Joe Biden has looked at the risks AI could have for national security, whilst in the EU, the AI Act has set up guard rails and looked to slow down the rapid advancement of the technology.

These developments have not been mirrored in the UK, where Donelan asserts there are no plans for broader regulation of AI, at least in the short term. The government seems to be committed to AI’s financial benefits, with Rishi Sunak making an appearance at the AI Safety Summit last year, for example.

Dr Henry Balani, Global Head of Industry & Regulatory Affairs at Encompass Corporation, commented: “Generative AI, in particular, has a huge role to play across the financial services industry, improving the accuracy and speed of detection of financial crime by analysing large data sets, for example. 

“Mitigating the risks of AI, through this collaboration agreement with the US, is a key step towards mitigating risks of financial crime, fostering collaboration and supporting innovation in a crucial, advancing area of technology.

“GenAI is here to augment the work of staff across the financial services sector, and particularly Know Your Customer (KYC) analysts, by streamlining processes and combing through vast data sets quickly and accurately. 

“But for this to be truly effective, banks and financial institutions need to first put in place robust digital and automated processes to optimise data quality and deliver deeper customer insights, which can help to fuel the use of GenAI.”