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DAILY MAIL COMMENT: Why we can’t trust China in the age of AI


The awesome power of artificial intelligence to transform our world presents massive opportunities for the future of humanity – and deadly risks.

AI is already deeply embedded in everyday life through appliances like Alexa and Siri, chatbots, online banking, facial recognition, smart cars and buildings, and a host of other beneficial services.

But on the other side of the ledger, terrorists, child pornographers, criminals and rogue states are working furiously to exploit it for malign ends.

In addition, there are fears of the emergence of a self-sustaining ‘super-intelligence’ so powerful that it could ultimately extinguish the human race.

In Tolstoy’s immortal words: What then must we do? Announcing the creation of the world’s first AI safety institute in the UK, Rishi Sunak didn’t pull his punches. ‘There is a danger that we could lose control completely,’ he said.

For unfree dictatorships like China, already among the world's most oppressive surveillance societies, AI is a vehicle for even greater state control and international espionage (Pictured: Xi Jinping)

For unfree dictatorships like China, already among the world’s most oppressive surveillance societies, AI is a vehicle for even greater state control and international espionage (Pictured: Xi Jinping)

Announcing the creation of the world's first AI safety institute in the UK, Rishi Sunak didn't pull his punches

Announcing the creation of the world’s first AI safety institute in the UK, Rishi Sunak didn’t pull his punches

But he believes a rush to regulation would be meaningless. ‘How can we make laws that make sense for something that we don’t fully understand?’ he said.

Instead, at a conference at Bletchley Park next week, he is bringing together like-minded countries to discuss a common system of protections and protocols.

It is an admirable ambition, but itself fraught with difficulties, not least because different nations have different aspirations for the use of AI.

Liberal Western democracies such as the UK want to harness its potential to turbocharge growth and innovation and revolutionise public services.

For unfree dictatorships like China, however, already among the world’s most oppressive surveillance societies, it is a vehicle for even greater state control and international espionage.

Many Tory MPs, including Liz Truss, criticise Mr Sunak for inviting the Chinese to his AI conference as they would almost certainly not honour any agreement reached. Mr Sunak responds that, like it or not, China is a major force in AI and without its input there can be no ‘serious strategy’ for the future.

He walks a dangerous balance. Chinese companies have been banned from working on Britain’s 5G communications network and other critical infrastructure projects for security reasons.

Mr Sunak is bringing together like-minded countries to discuss a common system of protections and protocols (Stock Photo)

Mr Sunak is bringing together like-minded countries to discuss a common system of protections and protocols (Stock Photo)

And our intelligence services have warned that Beijing’s spies are working tirelessly to infiltrate the heart of government and major British institutions to unearth our most intimate secrets.

Yes, we must engage with China as a world power and trading partner. But we can never assume it acts in good faith. When supping with a tyrant, it’s advisable to use a very long spoon.

Lighten tax burden

Languishing so far behind Labour in the polls and still smarting from by-election humiliations, it’s clear only a radical offer to the voters can save the Tories from oblivion in next year’s election.

One of the key areas they need to target is tax. We groan under the highest tax burden since the Second World War. Incredibly, Labour is now more trusted to reduce it. Yet Rishi Sunak says only that he is ‘confident’ taxes can be reduced before the election. If he is to avoid an electoral wipe-out he must be absolutely certain of it.

Yes, inflation has to be controlled but rather than raising taxes, he should be cutting spending – starting by slashing the size of the bloated civil service.

It’s time to be bold. Steady as she goes just won’t wash.

After presiding over an August bank holiday weekend of utter chaos, the company responsible for UK air traffic control is raising its fees by 26 per cent, with passengers inevitably footing the bill. Do any of our essential services aspire to provide value for money any more?



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