AI could carry out a biological attack on NHS and cause Covid-scale disruption

Robots could hack the NHS and cause disruption on the scale of the Covid pandemic, the new AI tsar has warned.

Ian Hogarth says among the biggest risks facing his £100million Frontier AI task force, which works to protect the public from dangerous artificial intelligence, is the potential the technology could cripple the health service or carry out a “biological attack”.

He also fears the tech could be used to design new diseases and it is getting better by the day, which lowers the barriers to “perpetrating some kind of cyber attack or cyber crime”.

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Ian said the UK needed to collaborate with countries around the world including China to try and prevent attacks,” adding: “It’s just like pandemics. It’s the sort of thing where you can’t go it alone.

“The kind of risks we are paying most attention to are augmented national security risks.

“These are fundamentally global risks. And in the same way we collaborate with China in aspects of biosecurity and cyber security, I think there is a real value in international collaboration around the larger scale risks.”

He added: “A huge number of people in technology right now are trying to develop AI systems that are superhuman at writing code…That technology is getting better and better by the day.

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“And fundamentally, what that does is it lowers the barriers to perpetrating some kind of cyber attack or cyber crime.”

The group has received £100m in Government funding to conduct independent AI safety research that it claims would enable the development of safe and reliable AI tools like ChatGPT.

Ian also likened the scale of the threat to the WannaCry cyber attack on the NHS in 2017, which led to the cancellation of 19,000 patient appointments and cost the health service an eye-watering estimated £92m.

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