Govt’s AI apocalypse fears ‘put UK tech goldrush at risk’ – DecisionMarketing

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The Government’s obsession with the “AI apocalypse” means the UK could to miss out on the tech goldrush and, much like the Internet revolution before it, pave the way for overseas tech giants to dominate the market, leaving British firms out in the cold.

That is the stark warning in a new report from the House of Lords Communications & Digital Committee, which maintains the UK’s approach to artificial intelligence has become far too focused on a narrow view of safety and must rebalance towards boosting opportunities.

The report claims there is the “real and growing” risk of regulatory capture, as a multi-billion pound race to dominate the market deepens. Without action to prioritise open competition and transparency, a small number of tech firms may rapidly consolidate control of a critical market and stifle new players, mirroring the challenges seen elsewhere in Internet services, which are dominated by American and Chinese tech giants.

While the Committee welcomes the Government’s work on positioning the UK as an AI leader, it believes a more positive vision for large language models is needed to reap the social and economic benefits, and enable the UK to compete globally.

Key measures include more support for AI start-ups, boosting computing infrastructure, improving skills, and exploring options for an ‘in-house’ sovereign UK large language model.

The Committee considered the risks around LLMs and says the apocalyptic concerns about threats to human existence are exaggerated and must not distract policy makers from responding to more immediate issues.

The report finds there are more limited near-term security risks, including cyber attacks, child sexual exploitation material, terrorist content and disinformation. And, while the catastrophic risks cannot be ruled out, the Committee calls for mandatory safety tests for high-risk models and more focus on safety by design.

The Lords are calling on the Government to support copyright holders, saying the Government “cannot sit on its hands” while LLM developers exploit the works of rightsholders. It rebukes tech firms for using data without permission or compensation, and says the Government should end the copyright dispute “definitively” including through legislation if necessary.

The report calls for a suite of measures to tackle this issue, including a way for rightsholders to check training data for copyright breaches, investment in new datasets to encourage tech firms to pay for licensed content, and a requirement for tech firms to declare what their web crawlers are being used for.

To steer the UK toward a positive outcome, the Committee sets out 10 core recommendations. These include measures to boost opportunities, address risks, support effective regulatory oversight – including to ensure open competition and avoid market dominance by established technology giants – achieve the aims set out in the AI White Paper, introduce new standards, and resolve copyright disputes.

Communications & Digital Committee chair Baroness Stowell of Beeston said that the rapid development of AI is likely to have a profound effect on society, comparable to the introduction of the Internet.

She added: “It is vital for the Government to get its approach right and not miss out on opportunities – particularly not if this is out of caution for far-off and improbable risks. We need to address risks in order to be able to take advantage of the opportunities – but we need to be proportionate and practical. We must avoid the UK missing out on a potential AI goldrush.

“One lesson from the way technology markets have developed since the inception of the Internet is the danger of market dominance by a small group of companies. The Government must ensure exaggerated predictions of an AI-driven apocalypse, coming from some of the tech firms, do not lead it to policies that close down open-source AI development or exclude innovative smaller players from developing AI services.

“We must be careful to avoid regulatory capture by the established technology companies in an area where regulators will be scrabbling to keep up with rapidly developing technology.

“We expect the Government to act on the concerns we have raised and take the steps necessary to make the most of the opportunities in front of us.”

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