Rishi Sunak, the prime minister of Britain, had one last appointment on Thursday evening after a busy couple of days hosting dozens of government leaders, tech executives and other experts at a summit on the dangers of artificial intelligence: a sit-down with Elon Musk.
Mr. Musk, the omnipresent tech billionaire, was in town for the A.I. Safety Summit that Mr. Sunak had organized at Bletchley Park, the countryside estate where Alan Turing helped crack the Enigma code used by the Nazis during World War II. A declaration signed by 28 nations at the event concluded A.I. presented “enormous global opportunities” but also the potential for “catastrophic harm.”
At Lancaster House, a former royal residence near Hyde Park and Buckingham Palace, Mr. Sunak interviewed Mr. Musk about the potential dangers of A.I. and, what, if anything, the world can do to prepare itself. The discussion was streamed on X, Mr. Musk’s social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
“A.I. will be a force for good, most likely,” said Mr. Musk. The problem, he said, is that the chance of things going very badly is “not zero.” Artificial intelligence is developing “faster than any technology I’ve seen in history by far,” he added.
Mr. Sunak said he believed A.I. posed many risks, but downplayed some of the potential negative effects. While he encounters many voters worried about automation and job losses, Mr. Sunak said he believed A.I. would improve productivity, create jobs and serve as a “co-pilot” to help workers rather than replace them — a view not shared by many labor unions.
The two men are an odd pairing. Mr. Sunak is a buttoned-up former Goldman Sachs banker whose greatest political attribute in becoming prime minister was that he would be a steady pair of hands after the ramshackle leadership of his predecessors Boris Johnson and Liz Truss. By contrast, Mr. Musk, known for predawn social media posts and deliberately provocative statements, appears to thrive more in a state of improvisation and chaos.
What both have in common is that they have been under intense scrutiny.
Mr. Sunak’s hold on power is in doubt. His Conservative Party, which must call an election by January 2025, has governed for 13 years and is being held responsible for a stagnant economy, worker strikes and public services under strain after years of government cuts. Mr. Musk has…