UK PM Rishi Sunak, Elon Musk discuss AI job threats, robotic 'friends'

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UK PM Rishi Sunak, Elon Musk discuss AI job threats, robotic 'friends'

Friday, 03 November 2023 | PTI | London

UK PM Rishi Sunak, Elon Musk discuss AI job threats, robotic 'friends'

In a much-hyped conversation between Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Tesla CEO Elon Musk at the conclusion of the AI Safety Summit hosted by the UK government, the duo discussed a range of issues from job threats posed by artificial intelligence to how AI-enabled robots could make good "friends" in the future.

In a recording of his discussion at Lancaster House in London on Thursday evening shared on Musk-owned X, Sunak is seen playing chat show host as he throws questions at the tech billionaire about the risks associated with the fast-developing and "transformative" new technology.

Musk, the world's richest man, described AI as "a magic genie" that could grant limitless wishes and agreed with the need for a "referee" to monitor the development of supercomputers of the future.

"We are seeing the most destructive force in history here. There will come a point where no job is needed – you can have a job if you want one for personal satisfaction, but AI will do everything," said Musk in response to a question about AI rendering certain jobs obsolete.

"It's both good and bad – one of the challenges in the future will be how do we find meaning in life," he said, on a philosophical note.

On balance, however, the founder of xAI said he believed that artificial intelligence would "be a force for good" and used a reference to his son, who struggled to make friends in the real world who would benefit from such smart tech with robotic "friends".

"A humanoid robot can basically chase you anywhere; it's something we should be quite concerned about. If a robot can follow you anywhere, what if they get a software update one day, and they're not so friendly any more," he pondered, highlighting the importance of humans being able to override AI with "some kind of off switch".

Sunak agreed and referenced sci-fi films about robots that end with the machines being switched off.

"We've learnt over the years that having a referee is a good thing," said Musk, with reference to announcements at the AI Safety Summit about new safety institutes that would test future AI models before they are released into the public domain.

The hour-long discussion, attended by some members of the UK Cabinet and leading tech entrepreneurs, came at the conclusion of Sunak-led discussions on the second and final day of the summit at Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire on Thursday.

The UK government declared the event a success as participating countries, including India, signed a Bletchley Declaration agreeing to collectively manage potential risks from AI and companies developing frontier AI agreeing on a "ground-breaking" plan on AI safety testing.

"Until now, the only people testing the safety of new AI models have been the very companies developing it. We shouldn't rely on them to mark their own homework, as many of them agree. Today, we've reached a historic agreement, with governments and AI companies working together to test the safety of their models before and after they are released," said Sunak.

He added that the UK's AI Safety Institute will play a vital role in leading this work in partnership with countries around the world, including an American AI Safety Institute.

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