“Who’s In? The Curious Case of the AI Safety Summit: Global Leaders’ Participation Uncertain”

The attendees and outcomes of next week’s AI safety summit, championed by Rishi Sunak’s government, remain shrouded in uncertainty. Despite this, the UK government emphasizes the summit’s significance as an initial step in addressing a rapidly evolving field that even experts struggle to fully grasp.

Initial concerns within No. 10 about the Israel-Gaza conflict potentially diminishing the summit’s global leadership presence have eased with the confirmation of notable attendees. European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and US Vice President Kamala Harris are set to participate.

In a noteworthy win for the UK government, leading AI companies, including OpenAI and Google DeepMind, have released their safety policies following a request from Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan.

However, the list of high-profile figures attending the gathering at Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire on Wednesday and Thursday remains uncertain. One significant question is whether China will send any representatives.

The summit holds personal significance for Sunak, who recently delivered a speech on AI, highlighting both the existential risks and reassurances associated with the technology. Officials involved in the summit’s planning stress that the urgency of finding answers overrides concerns about attendance and the potential significance of Harris delivering a separate speech on the US approach.

Sunak is being informed that the next generation of frontier AI models, capable of performing diverse tasks, will arrive within a year. These models are so powerful, approximately 10 billion times more so than their counterparts from a decade ago, that their potential achievements are uncertain even to their creators.

The Prime Minister’s spokesperson confirmed that invitations were extended to China, reflecting the global nature of the AI challenge. The spokesperson emphasized the desire to gather the right mix of countries and businesses but refrained from speculating on specific attendees.

The summit’s format entails a broad first day, led by Donelan, where ministers, tech firms, and experts will discuss the risks and challenges associated with frontier AI. On the second day, smaller groups will convene to explore potential regulatory approaches. Sunak will engage with a select group of “like-minded countries and companies,” with China notably absent from this set.

The summit is not expected to generate concrete regulatory proposals, and Sunak’s ambition for the UK to become a global hub for AI regulation remains aspirational. At the very least, the UK aims to play a significant role alongside the US, with the idea for the summit emerging during Sunak’s visit to Washington in June.

“We will work extremely closely with the US,” Sunak’s spokesperson noted. “The US and the UK have the leading companies in this space. So it is logical that both the US and the UK would be at the forefront of it.”

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