The U.K. Releases Its “Artificial Intelligence Superpower” 10-year Plan

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Tower Bridge, London, United Kingdom U.K.
Tower Bridge, London, United Kingdom U.K.

The U.K. government has released its 10-year plan on Wednesday. The country wants to become a global “artificial intelligence superpower”, rivaling the likes of the U.S. and China. The release called the “National Artificial Intelligence Strategy” is set to attract international investments into British AI companies

 “Today we’re laying the foundations for the next ten years’ growth with a strategy to help us seize the potential of artificial intelligence and play a leading role in shaping the way the world governs it,” Chris Philp, a minister of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said in a statement.

The National AI Strategy includes a number of programs, reports and initiatives. Of the many programs, the new National AI Research and Innovation program is set to be launched soon in an effort to improve collaboration between the country’s researchers.

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 “It seems like the sort of semi-sensible waffle this sort of strategy document always involves,” said one AI researcher from a Big Tech company who asked to remain anonymous because they weren’t authorized to speak to the media.

“The devil is in the details,” they added. “Will the government make it easier to get top PhD students, postdocs, and junior faculty into our universities? Currently they aren’t. Will there be a greater push to competitively fund public universities to retain or acquire top-tier faculty at all levels of seniority? Will there be a more clement tax system for low earners, as people involved in spinouts and start-ups often are, for a few years? Currently it’s just got more expensive with the AI hike.”

Where the U.K.’s AI project is heading

The AI researcher said that in recent years it seems as though the government has done more to destroy what makes the U.K. an appealing seat for research and entrepreneurship than they have to incentivize it.

“I’m optimistic that the plan could activate the U.K.’s AI potential,” Nathan Benaich, a venture capitalist at Air Street Capital, said. “To truly excel, the country should focus on domains of applied scientific research such as life sciences, energy, and cyber security, where it already has world-leading capabilities.”

Beth Singler, an anthropologist at the University of Cambridge who studies AI and robots, told CNBC that the U.K. is increasingly trying to find specialist areas where it can compete against much larger states in a post-Brexit world.

“With AI, some might see our experience with tech regulation and ethical debates as a strong USP for our AI agenda,” Singler said. “But is competition with the U.S. or China even the best framework or narrative for the overall progress of AI? I will watch the planned ethical structures that come out of this 10-year vision with interest, but we should also be careful not to buy into our own narratives of UK-exceptionalism because we have previously produced some of the key figures in the history of AI.”

Seb Krier, a senior policy researcher at the Stanford Cyber research center, said via Twitter that there are some “very promising” aspects to the National AI Strategy, while DeepMind COO Lila Ibrahim said it’s good to see a clear focus on effective governance of the technology, adding that it’s vital to earn public and business trust in AI.