‘Genie won’t go back in the bottle’ on artificial intelligence, says security minister

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Security minister Tom Tugendhat has said while he understands fears about artificial intelligence (AI), it would be misguided to pause further developments on the new technology.

He also suggested that suspending the field could squander UK cybersecurity efforts.

“Given the stakes, we can all understand the calls to stop AI development altogether,” he said, speaking at the CyberUK Conference in Belfast. “But the genie won’t go back in the bottle any more than we can write laws against maths.”

Tugendhat argued that staying ahead on AI is, in fact, a matter of national security interest.

“[Russian President Vladimir] Putin has a longstanding strategic interest in AI and has commented that whoever becomes leader in this sphere will rule the world.

“We can stay ahead,” he stated. “But it will demand investment and co-operation, and not just by government.” His statements suggest that the private sector and public sector both have a role to play.

Tugendhat’s comments come at a tense moment for the development of AI. With a recent escalation in the technology’s capabilities – as exemplified with chatbots such as Microsoft-backed ChaptGPT – some commentators have started to flag the future outcomes brought about by rapidly-developing superhuman tools in a human world that is relatively unprepared for such software.

Elon Musk, despite being said to be working on his own AI tool to compete with OpenAI, joined over 1,000 tech experts last month calling for a halt on new AI development. Musk, who co-founded ChatGPT maker OpenAI, left the company in 2018 citing conflicts of interest over the firm’s development.

Italy announced last month a temporary block on ChatGPT due to privacy concerns.

Russian groups pose cybersecurity threat

Cabinet office minister Oliver Dowden told the CyberUK conference yesterday that companies needed to boost cybersecurity due to the latest threat from Russia-linked hacking groups. These groups, he claims, are comparable to the Wagner paramilitary organisation as they are “ideologically motivated rather than financially motivated”.

However, Tugendhat was today optimistic about the help artificial intelligence can provide in protecting against these threats.

“Cyber attacks work when they find vulnerabilities. AI will cut the cost and complications of cyber attacks by automating the hunt for the chinks in our armour,” he said.

“Already AI can confuse and copy, spreading lies and committing fraud.

“Natural language models can mimic credible news sources, pushing disingenuous narratives at huge scale, and AI image and video generation will get better.”




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