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Ian Hogarth to chair new AI Taskforce amid regulatory concerns

Written by Wed 21 Jun 2023

Picture of Ian Hogarth, AI Taskforce Chair

Leading tech investor and artificial intelligence authority, Ian Hogarth, has been handpicked by the UK Government to spearhead its Foundation Model Taskforce. The Taskforce will oversee the development and responsible deployment of AI.

This move comes amidst skepticism about regulatory abilities, as only 6% of MPs trust existing UK regulators to effectively govern AI.

Hogarth, co-author of the annual State of AI report since 2018 and visiting professor at University College London, will help guide the Taskforce in conducting advanced safety research in AI.

The appointment follows the recent launch of the Government’s AI White Paper, which sets out a a pro-innovation approach to AI regulation.

Taskforce to emphasise AI safety

Under Hogarth’s stewardship, the Taskforce will conduct cutting-edge safety research, setting the stage for the first global summit on AI safety scheduled in the UK later this year. His leadership aims to consolidate expertise from government, industry, and academia to address the risks tied to AI, contribute to the creation of shared safety standards, and foster an environment of secured AI infrastructure.

The taskforce will emulate the model of the Vaccine Taskforce, which focused on agility and delegated authority to make decisions at speed.

On his appointment, Hogarth noted his excitement at chairing the AI safety initiative, which he believes has been under-resourced, despite a rapid AI evolution.

“UK scientists and entrepreneurs have made many important contributions to the field of AI, from Alan Turing through to AlphaFold. The Prime Minister has laid out a bold vision for the UK to supercharge the field of AI safety. I’m honoured to have the chance to chair such an important mission in the lead up to the first global summit on AI Safety in the UK,” said Hogarth.

With Hogarth’s status as the Founder of startup Songkick and venture capital fund Plural, the tech entrepreneur will work with the Department of Science, Innovation, and Technology (DSIT) on ensuring there are no conflicts of interest. A series of mitigations to manage these potential conflicts of interest will be implemented, including divestments of personal holdings in companies building foundation models or foundation model safety tools.

Meanwhile, regular checks will be in place to adapt to the evolving nature of the Taskforce’s scope and work program.

Pushing for responsible AI development

The Taskforce is expected to work towards understanding and addressing the safety challenges unique to foundation models. These include large-scale AI systems, underpinning popular services like ChatGPT, Google Bard, and Claude, which use extensive data sets for wide-ranging applications.

In acknowledging the role of the Taskforce, Technology Secretary Chloe Smith highlighted the need for it to champion ethical development of AI solutions and ensure the UK stays at the forefront of this transformative technology.

“With Ian on board, the Taskforce will be perfectly placed to strengthen the UK’s leadership on AI, and ensure that British people and businesses have access to the trustworthy tools they need to benefit from the many opportunities artificial intelligence has to offer,” said Smith.

AI companies in the UK have committed to providing the AI Taskforce with early or priority access to models for research and safety purposes.

The UK’s potential to spearhead international efforts on AI safety has not gone unnoticed, as President Biden acknowledged that the country is well-placed to lead the international effort on AI safety.

The Prime Minister’s vision

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stressed the critical need to ensure AI’s responsible and safe progression, given the potential of AI to transform our future. He expressed his confidence in Hogarth’s ability to steer the expert taskforce, praising Hogarth’s status as one of the key figures in UK’s tech scene.

“With such potential to transform our future, we owe it to our children and our grandchildren to ensure AI develops safely and responsibly. [The Taskforce] will ensure we do things differently and move with the same pace and vigour as we rise to meet the task ahead,” said Sunak.

Back in April, the Government earmarked an initial £100 million for the creation of the Foundation Model Taskforce, with the objective to grasp the opportunities offered by state-of-the-art AI systems while enhancing their safety and reliability.

MPs doubt regulatory competence

The formation of the Ttaskforce coincides with widespread skepticism concerning the UK’s regulatory capabilities.

A recent survey by YouGov in partnership with AI policy network Appraise revealed that few MPs trust existing regulators’ expertise in handling AI regulation. A mere 7% of Conservative MPs and 6% of Labour MPs showed confidence in existing regulators’ abilities.

“There’s been a huge amount of scaremongering since the government published its AI whitepaper. But good policy is never created in a climate of paranoia. If we focus too much on long-term fear factors, we’re in danger of overlooking the benefits and risks of AI in the here and now,” said James Boyd-Wallis, Co-founder of the Appraise Network.

This skepticism has not dampened the Government’s commitment to pushing the AI envelope, as a new £50 million package for a host of AI initiatives was announced by the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funding agency.

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Written by Wed 21 Jun 2023

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