UK AI summit 2023: Rishi Sunak’s government testing chatbot for tax and benefits


UK prime minister Rishi Sunak delivered a speech about artificial intelligence on 26 October

Tolga Akmen/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

This week, UK prime minister Rishi Sunak is hosting a group of 100 representatives from the worlds of business and politics to discuss the potential and pitfalls of artificial intelligence.

The AI Safety Summit, held at Bletchley Park, UK, begins on 1 November and aims to come up with a set of global principles with which to develop and deploy “frontier AI models” – the terminology favoured by Sunak and key figures in the AI industry for powerful models that don’t yet exist, but may be built very soon.

While the Bletchley Park event is the focal point, there is a wider week of fringe events being held in the UK, alongside a raft of UK government announcements on AI. Here are the latest developments.

UK testing government chatbot

The UK government is testing a large language model chatbot called Chat that can answer questions citizens may have about tax, student loans and benefits, according to The Telegraph. Chat will be trained on millions of pages hosted on the website, which includes advice on housing, immigration and taxation. The privacy notice for the chatbot says: “GOV.UK Chat is designed to help users to navigate information on GOV.UK, similar to a search function, so in order to provide answers to users it needs all the data it has to provide the most accurate answer.”

However, the newspaper reported that the chatbot wouldn’t be trained on citizens’ private data and users would be prompted not to share such information with the chatbot for data privacy issues. The pilot project is already being tested with businesses and, if successful, could be in the public’s hands shortly.

£100m fund announced for AI healthcare

Sunak has announced a £100 million fund that will aim to promote the development of AI tools in healthcare. The AI Life Sciences Accelerator Mission will focus on efforts to treat cancer and slow the onset of dementia by using AI to pore through potential treatments and novel drugs, rather than spending years on laboratory tests.

Members of academia, industry and front-line clinicians will soon be invited to propose projects for funding under the scheme. “Safe, responsible AI will change the game for what it’s possible to do in healthcare, closing the gap between the discovery and application of innovative new therapies, diagnostic tools, and ways of working that will give clinicians more time with their patients,” said Michelle Donelan, the UK’s science and technology secretary, in a statement.

Warnings of industry capture at summit

With the guest list for the Bletchley Park summit limited, those left out have raised their concerns about industry capture of the event. In response to the 100 people gathering at the summit, an equal number have signed an open letter to Sunak warning that “communities and workers most affected by AI have been marginalised by the summit”.

The letter echoed the concerns of many academics ahead of the summit that the agenda and discussion would be too dominated by industry interests. “What I fear and suspect is that it will be a meeting dominated by men, many of whom have financial interests that disqualify them from defending the public good, and that it will focus on long-term risks that don’t make big tech uncomfortable, rather than present harms that would force companies to change the way they design and implement AI,” says Carissa Véliz at the University of Oxford, who wasn’t one of the signatories of the letter.

Coming next

Observers will be watching to see who makes the final list of attendees at the summit. Reuters reports that China is sending along its vice minister of science and technology, despite some calls from people in Sunak’s own Conservative party to ban the country from participating.

We are expecting plenty more announcements from the UK government, although they will have to compete with an executive order, announced today by US president Joe Biden’s White House, focused on AI. US vice president Kamala Harris will also attend the Bletchley Park summit.

Politico, which saw a draft copy of the executive order, reports that the document’s scope is broad, with every federal agency compelled to appoint a chief AI officer, whose job will be to ensure that AI discrimination isn’t encoded into the parts of government they oversee.


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