That's cute. gathers up £100M for AI super-models

Figure not a typo, tho it will be paired with £900M 'BritGPT' supercomputer, which is a bit more like it

The UK government on Monday said it's putting up £100 million ($125 million) to launch a Foundation Model Taskforce, which is hoped will help spur the development of AI systems that can boost the nation's GDP.

Large language models, such as OpenAI's ChatGPT and GPT-4, are set to appear in software and services throughout the worlds of technology, law, healthcare, education, entertainment, media, and more, mainly providing chat-bot-like user interfaces and generating reports, creative content, and suchlike from queries and raw data.

Analysts believe these non-intelligent tools – capable of drawing from their training data to answer questions, follow instructions, and make stuff up – will enhance worker productivity and improve the economy. We think the bots will have some use and will improve; right now it feels as though everyone is too dazzled by the magical shiny-shiny nature of the tech and has lost all sense of proportion.

"Harnessing the potential of AI provides enormous opportunities to grow our economy, create better-paid jobs, and build a better future through advances in healthcare and security," British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in a canned statement.

"By investing in emerging technologies through our new expert taskforce, we can continue to lead the way in developing safe and trustworthy AI as part of shaping a more innovative UK economy."

The Foundation Model Taskforce will be expected to help Brit businesses and developers build better AI systems, and to procure the technologies for public services. The first pilot projects are expected to launch within the next six months. The initiative follows the government's earlier commitment to splash £900 million ($1.1 billion) to build a supercomputer designed to train and run homegrown AI models.

Some have dubbed this system BritGPT. It was previously reported that the super would cost up to £800 million; the finalized figure was £900 million, we note.

The taskforce will consist of government and industry experts, who will report directly to the Prime Minister and the Science, Innovation and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan. Officials haven't decided who will lead the taskforce yet, and will announce that decision later this year. In the meantime, Matt Clifford, Chair of the Advanced Research and Innovation Agency, will advise the Prime Minister and Technology Secretary on developing the taskforce. 

Large AI models are expensive to build; it requires extensive computing power, massive amounts of data, and specialised expertise to train and deploy these systems at scale. State-of-the-art models, such as OpenAI's GPT family, can cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build and iterate on. The investments pledged by the UK government fall behind the private funding in top AI startups.

Microsoft, for example, is investing a whopping $10 billion into OpenAI to exclusively license its AI software into its own products. Meanwhile, the London-based AI lab DeepMind has merged with Google. Other startups, such as Anthropic and Stability AI, are reportedly seeking to raise billions of dollars from investors to fund their training and testing.

That's not to say British taxpayers should necessarily foot these kinds of bills, bankrolling technologies that may well fill the coffers of private enterprises. It does put the amount pledged into context. On the other hand, seeding the development of next-gen AI models could provide a decent return on investment, with public and private sectors benefiting from the tech, if it all works well enough.

That said, given the billions the British government has blown on bungled IT projects, perhaps starting with a hundred million quid is probably a safe move.

The UK government believes machine learning could boost global GDP by seven percent over a decade, and thus it hopes the country will catch a chunk of that growth. The move comes as experts at the International Monetary Fund predict the nation's annual GDP will shrink by 0.3 per cent this year. 

"We need to act now to seize the opportunities AI can offer us in the future. We're backing our expert taskforce with the funding to make our ambitions for an AI-enabled country a reality and keep the UK at the front of the pack in this emerging technology," Donelan said.

"To ensure such leadership, the greatest capability we can develop is in the safety and reliability of such systems. This will ensure that the public and business have the trust they need to confidently adopt this technology and fully realise its benefits. That is exactly what this taskforce will prioritise." ®

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