AI summit: threat of human extinction ‘potentially on the table’

Global representatives gather for Sunak’s AI summit with threat of human extinction ‘potentially on the table’

Representatives of countries and big business will gather today for Rishi Sunak’s AI summit, as the PM seeks to lay the groundwork for the safe use of artificial intelligence.

The AI safety summit will take place on Wednesday and Thursday and, while neither US President Joe Biden nor French President Emmanuel Macron are set to attend, Downing Street has denied the tech get-together has been snubbed by world leaders. 

Among the confirmed attendees are Vice President Kamala Harris, who will represent the US, EU commission chief Ursula von der Leyen and Elon Musk, the Tesla CEO and owner of the social media site X.

Nick Clegg, former deputy prime minister and now president of global affairs at Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta, is, alongside Musk, another of the world’s most powerful tech executives to attend the summit this week.

Ahead of the summit, Clegg has compared the clamour over AI to a 1980s-style “moral panic” over video games, firing a warning shot to international politicians and regulators as they gather for a two-day summit on AI safety.

“New technologies always lead to hype”, he said. “They often lead to excessive zeal amongst the advocates and excessive pessimism amongst the critics.

“I remember the 80s. There was this moral panic about video games. There were moral panics about radio, the bicycle, the internet””, he added.

Kamala Harris is expected to address the conference at 1.35 pm, before she visits Downing Street for a meeting with Sunak in the early evening.

She is set to announce a US AI Safety Institute as she warns that AI “could endanger the very existence of humanity”.

In an article for the Sun newspaper today, Michelle Donelan, the science, innovation and technology secretary, warns that “the threat of human extinction” is “potentially on the table”.

She writes: “We’ve all heard the horror stories and worst-case scenarios of Artificial Intelligence.

“Chemical and biological weapons developed by robots, terror groups helped in planning attacks and the threat of human extinction are all potentially on the table”.

But she adds: “So, should we be worried about the dangerous potential of AI? Will it benefit us and our families? These are probably the two most common questions I get asked in my job.

“Well, my answers are: Yes and yes”.

In further comments released in advance of the conference, Donelan said: “The risks posed by frontier AI are serious and substantive and it is critical that we work together, both across sectors and countries to recognise these risks.

“This summit provides an opportunity for us to ensure we have the right people with the right expertise gathered around the table to discuss how we can mitigate these risks moving forward. Only then will we be able to truly reap the benefits of this transformative technology in a responsible manner.” is the UK’s leading digital-only political website, providing comprehensive coverage of UK politics. Subscribe to our daily newsletter here.