G7 leaders have called for the formulation of “guardrails” around the development of artificial intelligence, at a summit of the grouping that is tackling the emerging technology for the first time.

Rapid advancements in AI in recent months have sparked calls for greater oversight of its myriad applications, but there is little concrete agreement between governments on how to police it.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and UK prime minister Rishi Sunak were along those at the G7 summit to call for “guardrails” over the development of the technology.

Those demands come as AI experts warn about potential abuses around the use of large language models, the powerful technology behind generative AI — computer software that can write text and create images.

“Artificial intelligence’s potential benefits for citizens and the economy are great,” von der Leyen said during the opening session of talks between the G7 leaders in Hiroshima on Friday. “At the same time, we need to agree to guardrails to develop AI in the EU, reflecting our democratic values.”

“We want AI systems to be accurate, reliable, safe and non-discriminatory, regardless of their origin,” she said, in remarks shared by her spokesperson.

Sunak said that AI had the potential to deliver benefits for economic growth and transform public services so long as it was used “safely and securely and with guardrails in place.”

“We have taken a deliberately iterative approach because the technology is evolving quickly and we want to make sure that our regulation can evolve as it does as well,” Sunak said.

Sunak added the British government would work closely with international allies to co-ordinate attempts to ensure appropriate regulation for AI companies.

Governments are increasingly looking into how to regulate the rise of AI systems. EU lawmakers last week agreed on a tough set of rules over the use of AI, including restrictions on chatbots such as ChatGPT. Earlier this month, the US Federal Trade Commission and the UK’s competition watchdog both indicated they would review the growing industry.

The debate among G7 leaders over AI was a significant part of the opening session of the three-day summit, dedicated to the global economy.

Ministers for digital and technology issues from G7 states met in Japan last month where they agreed broad recommendations for AI, at a gathering designed to prepare for this weekend’s leaders’ summit.

“We reaffirm that AI policies and regulations should be human centric and based on nine democratic values, including protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms and the protection of privacy and personal data,” the ministers’ communique stated.

“We also reassert that AI policies and regulations should be risk-based and forward-looking to preserve an open and enabling environment for AI development and deployment that maximises the benefits of the technology for people and the planet while mitigating its risks,” it continued.

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