Scaling the summit – volunteering at the AI Safety Summit
11 January 2024
During 1-2 November, Bletchley Park in Milton Keynes hosted the first global government-led Artificial Intelligence (AI) Safety Summit. This bought together leading AI nations, multilateral organisations, technology companies, researchers, and civil society groups. Working at FCDO Services, our people have the privilege to volunteer at historically significant events like this. Our Head of Sustainability took part and tells us more about her involvement.
I volunteered to assist at the Summit for two reasons – I have a big interest in the topic, and I was curious to see how such a major international event is organised. From both perspectives, it was a fascinating experience.”
Organisation of the event
The scale of the event was extraordinary, having only been put together in a few short months.
Over ten temporary structures were constructed at Bletchley Park itself, with Milton Keynes (MK) Stadium transformed into an accreditation and security centre, and an emergency services hub was setup at the MK Bowl.
When we visited Bletchley Park for a walkthrough before the Summit, workers were still busy fitting out the interior of the venue.
Joining the attendees
Attendees included senior representatives from 28 countries and nine international organisations, plus business leaders, academics and research group representatives.
The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, and three UK Cabinet Ministers were present. They were also joined by US Vice President Kamala Harris, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, and Elon Musk to name a few. Rubbing shoulders with such important people is, of course, one of the highlights.
Working with the Australian delegation
I was assigned as a Delegate Liaison Officer for the Australian delegation – both their Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Industry and Science came to the event.
My job was to help ensure the VIPs were at the right place at the right time, as well as arrange bilateral meetings with other delegates. I made sure they had everything they needed, including umbrellas to cope with Storm Ciaran!
All in all it was a pretty intensive, but enjoyable, two days dashing around the Summit Village at Bletchley Park.
Takeaways from the event
What did I learn from the experience? I found it hugely motivating. It’s brilliant how quickly camaraderie develops between volunteers taking part.
We were given some guidance, but learned a lot as we went along and quickly passed knowledge between ourselves to save time. All of us supported each other and that helped build our confidence.
On top of this, having the opportunity to see first-hand how leaders are grappling with one of the most defining challenges of our time was fascinating.
There were several sessions held addressing frontier AI risks and improving frontier AI safety, from ‘AI for good’ through to ‘Risks from unpredictable advances in frontier AI capability’.
It’s clear that maximising the opportunities of AI while minimising the risks is extremely complex.
The main win of the Summit was getting agreement from all of the attending countries to the ‘Bletchley Declaration’. This marks a starting point in increased governmental collaboration for the future.
The implications for us
The question I was left pondering was ‘What does this mean for FCDO Services?’ Our big challenge is to analyse what we can do with AI.”
At FCDO Services, we’re actively exploring the opportunities that AI brings and developing our understanding of this exciting new technology.
Our aim is to provide the UK Government and its international partners with secure and safe solutions, and our use of AI will bolster this and improve our delivery.
We have already embarked on this journey and have recruited Data Science roles to support us, including apprentices to expand our knowledge base and workforce.
Additionally, AI is being used as part of our Digital Sensitivity Review Service to speed up the process of transferring digital files to The National Archive for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.
We review important documents for sensitive information, using security-cleared staff and the latest technology to improve both risk reduction and efficiency.
With vast amounts of annual records and numerous different file types, HM Treasury needed a bespoke solution to sensitivity review its files. We developed our use of AI and machine learning technologies to help.