The UK will host the first global summit on artificial intelligence (AI) safety, Rishi Sunak announced ahead of talks on the issue with Joe Biden.
The summit, which will be held in the autumn, will consider the need for international co-ordinated action to mitigate the risks of the emerging technology.
Ahead of Thursday’s meeting with Mr Biden, the Prime Minister said: “AI has an incredible potential to transform our lives for the better. But we need to make sure it is developed and used in a way that is safe and secure.
“Time and time again throughout history we have invented paradigm-shifting new technologies and we have harnessed them for the good of humanity.
“That is what we must do again.”
Recent weeks have seen experts from the Centre for AI Safety warn that “mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war”.
Mr Sunak acknowledged the grim forecasts but said he wanted to avoid “scaremongering” about the technology.
“The creators themselves have talked about risks on a scale on parallel with nuclear war and pandemics,” he told Sky News in Washington.
“And when people hear that they’ll rightly be worried about that, but that’s why I’ve actually been bringing the companies together to talk about the right guardrails to put in place to prevent those kinds of things from happening.”
Mr Sunak told reporters accompanying him on his trip to Washington: “Of course there are transformative things that AI can do, and you’ve seen that recently when it’s helping those who are paralysed or whether it’s discovering new drugs.
“But we need to make sure that we protect the country from the risks that it poses as well.”
While economic giants the US and European Union were considering how to act, Mr Sunak bridled at the suggestion there was little that a mid-sized country such as the UK could achieve.
“That mid-size country happens to be a global leader in AI,” he said.
“You would be hard pressed to find many other countries other than the US in the western world with more expertise and talent in AI.”
He said that “historically the UK has got it right when we are trying to balance innovation with making sure the new technology is safe for society”.
Downing Street said the summit was an opportunity for “like-minded countries” to come together on the issue.
Asked if it was an alliance against China and Russia on AI issues, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “No, it’s about looking at technology that is developing extremely quickly – perhaps faster than even those involved in its creation expected and better understanding the possibilities and potential risks and challenges that poses and how globally we can come up with ways to address that.”
US tech giant Palantir will make the UK its new European HQ for AI development, with the Government saying that showed the strength of the UK’s expertise.
Palantir chief executive Alex Karp said: “London is a magnet for the best software engineering talent in the world, and it is the natural choice as the hub for our European efforts to develop the most effective and ethical artificial intelligence software solutions available.”
The Prime Minister was also using the trip to announce an increase in the number of scholarships the UK Government funds for students undertaking post-graduate study and research at UK and US universities, especially in science, technology, engineering and maths.
Other subjects on the agenda for the meeting with Mr Biden in the White House include economic co-operation and continuing support for Ukraine, particularly on the provision of air defence.
Mr Sunak could also take the opportunity to push for Defence Secretary Ben Wallace to be handed the job of leading Nato when secretary general Jens Stoltenberg steps down at the end of September.