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World leaders seek unity on AI at virtual summit co-hosted by South Korea, U.K.

SEOUL, South Korea — World leaders are expected to adopt a new agreement on artificial intelligence when they gather virtually Tuesday to discuss AI's potential risks but also ways to promote its benefits and innovation.

The AI Seoul Summit is a follow-up to November's inaugural AI Safety Summit at Bletchley Park in the United Kingdom, where participating countries agreed to work together to contain the potentially "catastrophic" risks posed by galloping advances in AI.

The two-day meeting — co-hosted by the South Korean and U.K. governments — also comes as major tech companies like Meta, OpenAI and Google roll out the latest versions of their AI models.

On Tuesday evening, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak are to meet other world leaders, industry leaders and heads of international organizations for a virtual conference. The online summit will be followed by an in-person meeting of digital ministers, experts and others on Wednesday, according to organizers.

"It is just six months since world leaders met at Bletchley, but even in this short space of time, the landscape of AI has changed dramatically," Yoon and Sunak said in a joint article published in South Korea's JoongAng Ilbo newspaper and the U.K.'s online inews site on Monday. "The pace of change will only continue to accelerate, so our work must accelerate too."

While the U.K. meeting centered on AI safety issues, the agenda for this week's gathering was expanded to also include "innovation and inclusivity," Wang Yun-jong, a deputy director of national security in South Korea, told reporters Monday.

Wang said participants will subsequently "discuss not only the risks posed by AI but also its positive aspects and how it can contribute to humanity in a balanced manner."

The AI agreement will include the outcomes of discussions on safety, innovation and inclusivity. according to Park Sang-wook, senior presidential adviser for science and technology for President Yoon.

The leaders of the Group of Seven wealthy democracies — the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Britain – were invited to the virtual summit, along with leaders of Australia and Singapore and representatives from the U.N., the EU, OpenAI, Google, Meta, Amazon and Samsung, according to South Korea's presidential office.

China doesn't plan to participate in the virtual summit though it will send a representative to Wednesday's in-person meeting, the South Korean presidential office said. China took part in the U.K. summit.

In their article, Yoon and Sunak said they plan to ask companies to do more to show how they assess and respond to risks within their organizations.

"We know that, as with any new technology, AI brings new risks, including deliberate misuse from those who mean to do us harm," they said. "However, with new models being released almost every week, we are still learning where these risks may emerge, and the best ways to manage them proportionately."

The Seoul meeting has been billed as a mini virtual summit, serving as an interim meeting until a full-fledged in-person edition that France has pledged to hold.

Governments around the world have been scrambling to formulate regulations for AI even as the technology makes rapid advances and is poised to transform many aspects of daily life, from education and the workplace to copyrights and privacy. There are concerns that advances in AI could take away jobs, trick people and spread disinformation.

Developers of the most powerful AI systems are also banding together to set their own shared approach to setting AI safety standards. Facebook parent company Meta Platforms and Amazon announced Monday they're joining the Frontier Model Forum, a group founded last year by Anthropic, Google, Microsoft and OpenAI.

In March, the U.N. General Assembly approved its first resolution on the safe use of AI systems. Earlier in May, the U.S. and China held their first high-level talks on artificial intelligence in Geneva to discuss how to address the risks of the fast-evolving technology and set shared standards to manage it.

Copyright 2024 NPR