GCHQ chief Sir Jeremy Fleming has given ministers a “clear-eyed” analysis of the risks posed by artificial intelligence (AI).
Downing Street said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak used the same Cabinet meeting on Tuesday to stress the importance of AI to UK national security and the economy, amid growing debates about how to regulate the rapidly developing technology.
Sir Jeremy, who spoke alongside Government chief scientific adviser Professor Dame Angela McLean, spoke about the “potential applications and risks” of AI.
Downing Street gave little detail about what specific risks the GCHQ boss warned of – but said the update was a “clear-eyed look at the potential for things like disinformation and the importance of people being aware of that”.
“The Prime Minister concluded Cabinet by saying that given the importance of AI to our economy and national security, this could be one of the most important policies we pursue in the next few years which is why we must get this right,” the readout added.
Asked if the potential for an existential threat to humanity from AI had been considered, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We are well aware of the potential risks posed by artificial general intelligence.”
The spokesman said Michelle Donelan’s science ministry was leading on that issue, but the Government’s policy was to have “appropriate, flexible regulation which can move swiftly to deal with what is a changing technology”.
“As the public would expect, we are looking to both make the most of the opportunities but also to guard against the potential risk,” the spokesman added.
The Government used the recent refresh of the integrated review to launch a new government-industry AI-focused task force on the issue, modelled on the vaccines task force used during the Covid pandemic.
Italy last month said it would temporarily block the artificial intelligence software ChatGPT amid global debate about the power of such new tools.
The AI systems powering such chatbots, known as large language models, are able to mimic human writing styles based on the huge trove of digital books and online writings they have ingested.
Mr Sunak, who created a new Department for Science, Innovation & Technology in a Whitehall reshuffle earlier this year, is known to be enthusiastic about making the UK a “science superpower”.