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Rishi Sunak Avers UK Must Not Allow World’s Top AI Talent To Be Drawn To US Or China

UK PM Rishi Sunak has said that he can't allow US and China to attract all the top AI talent. UK has a thriving life science sector and seeks harness AI for it.

Written By
sagar kar

Image: AP

UK PM Rishi Sunak has unveiled a plan to attract the world's top 100 people in the field of artificial intelligence. Speaking at the Confederation of British Industry's (CBI) annual conference, Sunak stated that the UK must not allow the world's "best and brightest" to go and work for the US or China. “We cannot allow the world’s top AI talent to be drawn to America or China,” he said. 

The UK PM promised to create a visa regime that will be the world's most attractive. The focus will be on attracting entrepreneurs and highly skilled people. He said that the UK will use the freedoms it has gained as result of Brexit to strike trade deals with the world's fastest growing economies. India is the world's fastest growing economy and New Delhi has asked London to ease up its visa rules in exchange for access to India's market. Sunak said that the UK will be building on AI scholarships and Masters Conversion courses that exist, by "launching a programme to identify and attract the world’s top 100 young talents on AI." 

AI's connection with Britain

Sunak said that he remains commited to tackling illegal immigration but indicated that he will go ahead and loosen visa regulations, to attract people with certain skills. In recent years, due to the silicon valley's dominance, the US has become the leading player in the field of computer science and now China is catching up to the US. But the roots of computer science originated in the UK, during the 2nd World War. It was Alan Turing who in essence invented the computer, whilst working with the UK government at Bletchley Park. His mission was to decode the encryption devices used by the German military, which were called Enigma. 

The ability to break the code of Enigma gave the UK crucial intelligence as they were now able to monitor the internal communication line of Germans. In 1948, Turing introduced the foundational concepts of AI by writing the paper “Intelligent Machinery.” In 1950 he published a seminal paper titled - "can machines think?" and devised the famous Turing test. The Turing test is complex but the essence of the test is this - how do we know true artificial intelligence has been attained? We know that when a human being interacts with a computer and cannot tell if it is a computer or a human being.

Taking Computer science beyond software by harnessing it for Life Science 

The UK was equivalent to the US in the field of computer science until the introduction of the Internet. The Internet emerged as a result of a DARPA funded programme at  MIT, Boston. Since that time, the UK's computer science never caught up with the US and the US became the leading player. However, in the field of life sciences, the UK remains a leading player and the 21st century is witnessing a breakthrough in the field of life science as a result of computer science's interaction with life science. The Economist, in this context, called life science the "crown jewel of Britain". For a long time, computer science was a field in which only people interested in software dipped their toes. Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Google are all products of software focused computer science. 

However, ever since the human genome was sequenced, the UK, US and China started using computer science for fields that are much more consequential than software. Fields such as synthetic biology and precision gene engineering, which entails identifying specific mutated genes and editing them. The expectation is that one day, humanity will have information about specific genes that lead to cancer and that gene will be edited out. Same will be done with other diseases. Research in these topics require analysis of large data sets, which a human being cannot do. The hope is that human intuition and insight will be used to come up with a hypothesis and AI will be used to test it out. 

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