Very powerful AI may be banned, warns UK govt adviser

Stepping closer to AI regulation.
Sejal Sharma
'Powerful artificial-intelligence ban possible'
'Powerful artificial-intelligence ban possible'


As AI continues to develop at a rapid rate, concerns have been raised by experts and the so-called AI ‘godfathers’ about the imminent risks it could pose to people's privacy, human rights, and safety.

Amid steps taken by the United Kingdom government and the European Union, in partnership with the U.S, to regulate the technology, a member of the non-statutory AI Council of the U.K. government has said that the very powerful artificial general intelligence (AGI) systems may eventually have to be banned.

Marc Warner, the CEO of the AI company Faculty, is a member of the AI Council, an independent expert committee providing advice to the UK Government on the AI ecosystem.

In an interview with the BBC, Warner talked about AGI, a system surpassing human intelligence and can reason, plan, and learn from experience at the same level as humans do or possibly above them.

He said AGI is much more worrying and needs a completely different set of rules. Raising a valid albeit worrying point that humanity was in its position of importance on this planet primarily because of its intelligence, and “if we create objects that are as smart or smarter than us, there is nobody in the world that can give a good scientific justification of why that should be safe.”

On the other hand, he added that narrow AI systems, which are used for tasks such as translating text or aiding in identifying bacteria via machine learning, could be regulated like existing technology.

But AGI systems have the potential to be as smart or smarter than humans in most tasks. Calling for sensible decisions on AGI, Warner added, "At the very least, there needs to be some sort of strong limits on the amount of compute [processing power] that can be arbitrarily thrown at these things.”

Warner is also a signatory to the Center for AI Safety statement, which calls for action to mitigate the risks of possible extinction of human beings at the hands of AI. Others who signed the statement include Geoffrey Hinton, the AI ‘godfather’ who left Google to speak freely about the effects of AI, Yoshua Bengio, the eminent AI scientist and professor who said that he felt "lost" over his life's work, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Anthropic CEO Dario Amodei, Google DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis, and others.

The EU Artificial Intelligence Act, which will be among the first to regulate AI, is still going through legislative processes, reported the BBC. The European Union Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said it would take two to three years for different pieces of legislation to come into effect - "and we're talking about a technological acceleration that is beyond belief.”

Europe is ahead of the U.S. in articulating regulations to govern AI safely. Calls have been made by CEOs of leading AI companies to come up with rules to manage the powerful technology. Now more than ever, it's become essential for countries like the U.S. to step up if they want to be a part of the conversation around international AI governance.

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