LONDON — Britain’s technology secretary said she doesn’t agree with Elon Musk on everything — but insisted the X tycoon deserves a seat at the table for the U.K.’s artificial intelligence summit this week.
Rishi Sunak announced Monday that the X and Tesla boss will attend his much-hyped AI gathering at Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire to discuss risks and mitigations for the cutting-edge tech. Musk is expected to attend both days, as well as joining the British Prime Minister for a live interview after the summit on Thursday.
Musk has previously urged caution over AI, signing a letter warning “AI systems with human-competitive intelligence can pose profound risks to society and humanity.”
But he is a controversial figure who has attracted criticism for some of his public statements, including in 2021 throwing personal insults at senior U.S. Democrat Elizabeth Warren in a row over taxes. He also mocked Ukraine’s war-time leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy, using a meme to scoff at the president’s calls for Western aid. Musk described his X, then known as Twitter, takeover as a bid to stop the “woke mind virus.”
Asked by POLITICO whether she agreed with some of Musk’s more controversial comments, including the Warren insults and suggestion in March 2020 that people worried about coronavirus were “dumb,” Donelan said: “Just because he’s coming to the summit, doesn’t mean that I or the government agree with everything that he said.”
“There will be lots of views [at the summit] that I personally don’t subscribe to, the prime minister doesn’t,” she said. “But the whole point about the summit is to get that diversity of opinions, to get people that are working in AI, leading the way in tech, which Elon Musk certainly is — so he deserves a seat at the table because of that.”
Donelan added: “We can’t just work on this issue in silos. If we were just going to listen to one viewpoint on this, then we wouldn’t be organizing a summit. We wouldn’t have packed our benches with experts from around the globe that have differing opinions and differing insights. That’s the whole point of what we’re trying to do here.”
Donelan said the summit would be “exclusively” focused on the risks and opportunities of frontier AI, defined usually by the industry as AI systems that exceed the capabilities of today’s leading models, and so will not be the forum for broader conversations on other topics.
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