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Countries developing 'frontier AI' need to work together for mutual security: PM Lee

SINGAPORE: Countries developing and deploying “frontier AI” must cooperate for the sake of mutual security, despite the inevitable competition, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Thursday (Nov 2) after joining world leaders virtually at the inaugural global AI safety summit.

The first wave of mainstream AI applications like ChatGPT are often called frontier AI.

The release of ChatGPT and other generative AI systems, which are capable of quickly producing text, images and audio from simple commands in everyday language, have captivated the public and offered a glimpse into the potential of the technology.

But they have also prompted concerns around issues ranging from job losses to cyberattacks and the control that humans actually have over the systems.

“No one benefits when AI systems go rogue,” Mr Lee said in a Facebook post on Thursday.

“Countries will ultimately need to establish some global understanding to make AI systems safer, and avoid AI creating strategic risks and instability,” he added.

Mr Lee discussed emerging AI issues during the leaders’ session of the summit.

He noted that the field of AI is “developing rapidly, transforming lives while raising deep ethical questions”.

“We need to improve our understanding of ethical AI and how to promote it,” Mr Lee said in his Facebook post. “Be it decisions made by self-driving cars or doctors relying on AI-generated diagnoses, the AI systems must be imbued with human context and human values.”

Singapore welcomes the UK’s new AI Safety Institute and its cooperation with Singapore on safety testing, he said.

“Singapore has taken some small steps, such as introducing testing toolkits like AI Verify and evaluation sandboxes to mitigate these risks.”

Mr Lee added that all stakeholders should participate in shaping the rules and safeguards governing AI.

“While the main players are American, Chinese, and European, this conversation on AI safety cannot just be amongst the few.”

Singapore also participates in AI research and deployment, and will also be affected by the benefits as well as risks and downsides of AI, he said.

“Singapore is honoured to work with international partners so that we can all reap the benefits of AI, and make AI a force for good contributing to our common prosperity,” said Mr Lee.

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The inaugural global AI safety summit, organised by the UK, kicked off in Bletchley Park, north of London, on Wednesday with the publication of an agreement signed by 28 countries and the European Union acknowledging the “need for international action”.

US Vice President Kamala Harris, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, EU chief Ursula von der Leyen and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres joined representatives from governments including Singapore, France, Germany and Australia to discuss global priorities for AI in the next five years.

Communications and Information Minister Josephine Teo represented Singapore in person at the summit.

On Wednesday, Mrs Teo chaired a roundtable discussion on “Risks from Loss of Control over Frontier AI”.

The session was a discussion of whether and how very advanced AI systems could in the future lead to the loss of human control and oversight, risks this would pose, as well as tools to monitor and prevent those scenarios. 

Mrs Teo was also involved as a participant and spoke at three other roundtables, including one on what national policymakers should do in relation to the risks and opportunities of AI.She also shared Singapore’s work in harnessing AI for the public good at a discussion with other digital ministers focusing on global opportunities for AI.

Singapore’s invitation to the summit comes after the launch of the Singapore-UK Strategic Partnership by Mr Lee and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in September 2023, under which Singapore and the UK agreed to engage on and influence international standards, frameworks, and guidelines for critical and emerging technologies, including AI.

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