The UK LLM opportunity: Air Street at the House of Lords
Published by Nathan Benaich on 28 Sept 2023.
AI and the Future of Britain
The House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee is currently holding an inquiry into Large Language Models (LLMs) and the steps governments, businesses, and regulators need to take over the next 1-3 years to maximize the opportunities while minimizing the risks.
Alongside Peter Waggett (IBM), Zoe Webster (BT), and Francesco Marconi (Applied XL), I was invited to give evidence on the potential benefits of LLMs to the UK economy and the barriers to investment.
I’ve tidied up the notes I prepared ahead of time, grouped under the main themes of the session. There’s also some extra material in there that we didn’t have time to cover. You can watch the session in full here.
Where is the LLM opportunity in the UK?
- Between 2019-2023, the Bay Area alone saw $6B invested in Generative AI (excluding OpenAI), while London saw $365M. The vast majority of this fundraising occurred in the last 1-2 years.
- In the same time, $7.4B was invested in AI chips in China, $2.9B in the US, while all of Europe invested $446.7M combined.
What are the main barriers to investment/business uptake?
1. Enterprise adoption
- Political stability: as governments have changed in recent years, policy and priorities have varied significantly. Consistency, both on science and tech specifically, but economic policy more generally is essential.
- A welcoming immigration system: both in terms of actual policy and also tone. Talent needs to know that it will be able to move to this country, be made to feel welcome here, and not undergo a process that treats it with suspicion.
- Less hostility to the tech sector: proposals that would break end-to-end encryption in legislation like the Online Safety Bill, or amendments to the Investigatory Powers Act that would give the Home Office oversight over smartphone upgrades, undermine international attempts to paint the UK as a serious technology power.
Note: read our essay in full here.
Open vs closed source
The move away from open source
How can the government facilitate an open source ecosystem?
- By contrast, Anthropic has suggested the US should invest $4 billion over three years to build a 100,000 GPU cluster.
- It could bring together data from the BBC, government departments, our universities, and other sources for values-aligned UK companies looking to build LLMs.
- But here, infrastructure investments are important - recall that DeepMind tried to revolutionize the NHS with AI and we ended up several years later with a task management app for clinicians.