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Is the UK Ready to Lead AI and Web3 Innovation?

2 mins
Updated by Geraint Price
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In Brief

  • UK-based Web3 and AI firms stand to benefit from a16z's London office.
  • British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is aggressively lobbying for UK tech leadership.
  • Ideas around UK AI regulation are currently focused on the longer rather than the short-term.
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As venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) announces new UK headquarters, what are Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s plans for Britain’s future role in Web3 and artificial intelligence (AI)?

On Sunday, a16z general partner Chris Dixon announced the firm’s London headquarters as Sunak prepares to coordinate global AI regulation at an upcoming summit. 

UK Can Lead Decentralization Industry

Dixon said “world-class regulators,” deep capital pools, and academic leadership position the UK strongly to lead Web3 innovation and decentralization. A16z has already invested in UK-based firm Gensyn, which develops AI tech on decentralized hardware. 

Sunak pushed for the UK to become a crypto hub while serving as Chancellor of the Exchequer. 

Since becoming Prime Minister, Sunak has seen Britain lag behind the European Union in advancing regulation around new technologies. He visited US President Joe Biden last week to discuss global frameworks for regulating AI.

Post-Brexit, he seeks a forum such as the upcoming AI summit to bridge the gap between the EU’s hard line stance and America’s relatively hands-off approach. 

The State of British AI Regulation

So far, Sunak has proposed two frameworks modeled on the particle physics project CERN and the International Atomic Energy Agency. 

Former UK Chancellor Sajid Javid said AI could benefit from both approaches. The industry can operate in a tightly-controlled ethical and physical environment governed by Western government-backed research. 

A UK government adviser said Britain’s exclusion from key Western forums discussing AI governance allows the UK to bridge a gap between them and underrepresented countries like South Korea and Japan.

UK ranks third in AI readiness
Worldwide AI Readiness Index in 2022 | Source: Statista

However, the adviser also pointed out that civil discussions in the UK around AI diverged from the original vision in a white paper. 

Read more on how crypto trading bots are harnessing the power of AI.

Last week, Labour Party spokesperson Lucy Powell said the industry should be regulated like medicine or nuclear power. Given the broad applications of popular large-language models like GPT-4, developers must hold a license, Powell argued.

AI chief government adviser Matt Clifford said that regulators must urgently address the technology’s potentially grave long-term threats.

Others suggest regulation should rather focus on its more urgent potential to misinform.

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David Thomas
David Thomas graduated from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal in Durban, South Africa, with an Honors degree in electronic engineering. He worked as an engineer for eight years, developing software for industrial processes at South African automation specialist Autotronix (Pty) Ltd., mining control systems for AngloGold Ashanti, and consumer products at Inhep Digital Security, a domestic security company wholly owned by Swedish conglomerate Assa Abloy. He has experience writing software in C,...