15 May 2024
by Tess Buckley

Navigating the AI safety landscape: a comprehensive overview of the AI Safety Institute (AISI)

Blog from Tess Buckley at techUK as part of our #UnleashInnovation campaign week 2024.

AI innovations, particularly in Generative AI, are evolving swiftly, resulting in the landscape presenting both unparalleled opportunities and unprecedented risks. Consequently, ensuring the safety of AI technologies has emerged as a critical concern for governments, civil societies, and industries worldwide. Getting this right is vital if we are to ensure that the UK remains a trusted global leader in the development and application of emerging technologies. 

This insight is a comprehensive overview of the UK’s AI Safety Insitute, summarising its ambitions, progress on those ambitions, strategic partnerships and approaches to evaluations. Each area is linked to a further explanatory insight which readers can visit if they wish to learn more.  

Origins and objectives of the AISI 

The genesis of the AISI traces back to the Bletchley AI Summit, where it was introduced as the successor to the AI taskforce. While DSIT retains its role in policymaking, the AISI takes charge of research, evaluations, and shaping the future trajectory of AI. Its overarching goal is to safeguard public interests and proactively steer the course of AI development. Additionally, the AISI aspires to position the UK as a global center of excellence in AI safety, with endorsements from governments and leading AI labs worldwide. Read more here. 

Focus areas and strategic partnerships 

The AISI has delineated three priority areas to achieve its objectives: evaluating advanced AI models, conducting foundational AI safety research, and facilitating global information exchange. Through a series of progress reports, it showcases tangible advancements and collaborations towards these goals. 

  • First Progress Report: The AISI lays the groundwork with the establishment of specialised research teams, expert advisory boards, and strategic partnerships with leading organisations. 

  • Second Progress Report: Notable strides include the expansion of research capabilities, the establishment of the UK's AI Research Resource, Isambard-AI, and fostering partnerships for knowledge sharing. 

  • Third Progress Report: The AISI intensifies its focus on evaluating AI systems' technical capabilities, pre-deployment risk testing, and collaboration with diverse stakeholders. Talent acquisition and retention remain pivotal for sustained progress. 

In addition to its domestic endeavors, the AISI has forged strategic partnerships on the international stage. Collaborations with countries like the Republic of Korea and the US exemplify its commitment to global cooperation in advancing AI safety standards. 

Approach to evaluations and role of the AISI 

Central to the AISI's mandate is its role as an independent evaluator of AI systems. Through rigorous evaluation methodologies, including red teaming, human uplift evaluations, and AI agent assessments, it aims to provide early warning signs of potential risks. While maintaining confidentiality in its evaluation process, the AISI pledges transparency by selectively disclosing evaluation results. 

It’s important to note that the AISI doesn't seek to offer definitive safety certifications but rather serves as a supplementary oversight body. The ultimate decision to deploy AI systems rests with the developers, with the AISI providing critical insights to inform responsible decision-making. Read more here. 

What’s next? 

For many UK-based technology companies, understanding the role, purpose and operations of the AISI will be essential if they are to safely and effectively move from the conception and development of AI technologies to their eventual application and commercialisation.  

techUKs AI Safety programme, led by Tess Buckley, will continue to provide more updates on AI safety conversation to ensure communication and understanding of a safe and beneficial AI-powered future. 

You can read more insights in which techUK demystifies key parts of the UK Government and research landscape by viewing our Institutions of Innovation interview series. 

If you found this insight interesting and want to learn more about techUK AI Safety programming, you can check out our website page here or contact [email protected].

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Laura Foster

Laura Foster

Head of Technology and Innovation, techUK

Rory Daniels

Rory Daniels

Programme Manager, Emerging Technologies

Tess Buckley

Tess Buckley

Programme Manager - Digital Ethics and AI Safety, techUK

Usman Ikhlaq

Usman Ikhlaq

Programme Manager - Artificial Intelligence, techUK


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Tess Buckley

Tess Buckley

Programme Manager, Digital Ethics and AI Safety, techUK

Tess is the Programme Manager for Digital Ethics and AI Safety at techUK.  

Prior to techUK Tess worked as an AI Ethics Analyst, which revolved around the first dataset on Corporate Digital Responsibility (CDR), and then later the development of a large language model focused on answering ESG questions for Chief Sustainability Officers. Alongside other responsibilities, she distributed the dataset on CDR to investors who wanted to further understand the digital risks of their portfolio, she drew narratives and patterns from the data, and collaborate with leading institutes to support academics in AI ethics. She has authored articles for outlets such as ESG Investor, Montreal AI Ethics Institute, The FinTech Times, and Finance Digest. Covered topics like CDR, AI ethics, and tech governance, leveraging company insights to contribute valuable industry perspectives. Tess is Vice Chair of the YNG Technology Group at YPO, an AI Literacy Advisor at Humans for AI, a Trustworthy AI Researcher at Z-Inspection Trustworthy AI Labs and an Ambassador for AboutFace. 

Tess holds a MA in Philosophy and AI from Northeastern University London, where she specialised in biotechnologies and ableism, following a BA from McGill University where she joint-majored in International Development and Philosophy, minoring in communications. Tess’s primary research interests include AI literacy, AI music systems, the impact of AI on disability rights and the portrayal of AI in media (narratives). In particular, Tess seeks to operationalise AI ethics and use philosophical principles to make emerging technologies explainable, and ethical. 

Outside of work Tess enjoys kickboxing, ballet, crochet and jazz music.

[email protected]

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