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AI flagged a ‘chronic risk’ in UK National Risk Register

Written by Wed 9 Aug 2023

The UK Government has flagged AI as a ‘chronic risk’ in its National Risk Register (NRR). This marks the first time AI has been featured as a strategic risk for the country.

The Government acknowledged the widespread implications of AI, including the potential for increased misinformation and a decline in economic competitiveness.

“Chronic risks are distinct from acute risks in that they pose continuous challenges that erode our economy, community, way of life, and/or national security,” said the report.

The report prompted mixed reactions upon its release. Opposition MP Darren Jones said on X (Twitter) that AI was ‘barely mentioned’ and that ministers are failing to establish a robust plan to address its dangers.

“Ministers have only just started thinking about it. And they don’t know what to do. The PM should set up an AI sub-committee of the national security council. The G7 Hiroshima process should work with tech companies to accelerate AI safety tech investment,” said Jones.

On the other hand, Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden praised the report.

“This is the most comprehensive risk assessment we’ve ever published, so that government and our partners can put robust plans in place and be ready for anything,” said Dowden in a press release.

To combat the potential dangers of AI, the Government announced £50 million ($63.8 million) to develop it safely and securely. The pro-innovation White Paper was also revealed, which outlined five key principles for AI’s adoption. It was similarly met with mixed opinions.

The UK will also host the first global summit on AI safety, bringing together key countries, leading tech companies and researchers to agree safety measures to evaluate and monitor risks from AI.

Cyberattack threaten critical UK infrastructure

The report also warned against the looming threat of severe cyberattacks, as well as energy security. It revealed a 5% to 25% chance of a significant cyber attack on vital infrastructure occurring within the next two years.

The NNR report said cyberattacks had become progressively sophisticated and various sectors of the economy could become damaged.

The report identified numerous targets that could be vulnerable to cyber attacks, including electricity infrastructure, civil nuclear facilities, fuel supply, financial infrastructure, government institutions, healthcare, telecommunications systems, and the transport sector.

The anticipated attacks involve manipulation, theft, or destruction of essential data used in critical systems. In the case of attacks on governmental entities, there are concerns around the erosion of public trust and the disruption of electoral processes.

How does the National Risk Register work?

The Register outlines 89 threats that would have a significant impact on the UK’s safety, security or critical systems at a national level.

These risks fell under the jurisdiction of departments or other governmental entities tasked with evaluating the consequences and probability of each risk.

Specialists spanning UK Government sectors, devolved administrations, the governmental scientific community, and external sources were consulted to identify these risks.

The risks were evaluated using ‘reasonable worst-case scenarios’ whilst eliminating exceedingly improbable variations.

Impacts were assessed across seven ‘broad dimensions’, including human welfare, behavioural impacts, the impact on essential services, economic damage, environmental impact, the impact on security, and international impacts.

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Written by Wed 9 Aug 2023

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