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UK Opens San Francisco Office to Tackle AI Risks

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Artificial Intelligence
Artificial Intelligence

Ahead of the AI safety summit in Seoul, South Korea, the United Kingdom is ramping up its efforts in AI safety by establishing a second location for its AI Safety Institute in San Francisco. The institute, created in November 2023, aims to assess and address risks associated with AI platforms.

The decision to open a new office in the Bay Area is strategic, as this region is home to major AI developers like OpenAI, Anthropic, Google, and Meta. These companies are at the forefront of building foundational AI models, the core technology behind generative AI services and applications.

Michelle Donelan, the U.K. Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, emphasized the benefits of having a presence in San Francisco. “Having people on the ground in San Francisco will give us access to the headquarters of many AI companies,” she told TechCrunch. “Many of these companies have bases in the U.K., but a base in the U.S. allows us to tap into additional talent and work more collaboratively with the United States.”

This move aims to enhance the U.K.’s visibility and engagement with leading AI firms, crucial for fostering economic growth and investment in AI and technology. The timing is notable, given the recent upheaval at OpenAI regarding its Superalignment team.

The AI Safety Institute, though relatively small with 32 employees, plays a crucial role in the rapidly evolving AI landscape. One of its significant contributions is the release of Inspect, a toolset for testing the safety of foundational AI models. Donelan described this release as a “phase one” effort, acknowledging the challenges in benchmarking models and the current voluntary nature of company participation in safety evaluations.

During the upcoming Seoul conference, one of the goals is to present Inspect to regulators and encourage its adoption globally. Donelan stressed the importance of making AI safe across society and hinted at future legislation to better manage AI risks, aligning with the cautious approach advocated by U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Ian Hogarth, chair of the AI Safety Institute, highlighted the importance of international collaboration. “Since day one, we have emphasized the importance of an international approach to AI safety,” he said. “Today marks a pivotal moment, allowing us to advance our agenda further. We are proud to scale our operations in a tech talent-rich area, building on the expertise of our London staff.”

The establishment of the San Francisco office signifies a major step in the U.K.’s proactive approach to AI safety, ensuring close collaboration with leading AI innovators and enhancing global efforts to address AI risks.

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