Demis Hassabis says he is not in the “pessimistic” camp about artificial intelligence. But that did not stop the CEO of Google DeepMind signing a statement in May warning that the threat of extinction from AI should be treated as a societal risk comparable to pandemics or nuclear weapons.

That uneasy gap between hope and horror, and the desire to bridge it, is a key reason why Rishi Sunak convened next week’s global AI safety summit in Bletchley Park, a symbolic choice as the base of the visionary codebreakers – including computing pioneer Alan Turing – who deciphered German communications during the second world war.

“I am not in the pessimistic camp about AI obviously, otherwise I wouldn’t be working on it,” Hassabis tells the Guardian in an interview at Google DeepMind’s base in King’s Cross, London.

“But I’m not in the ‘there’s nothing to see here and nothing to worry about’ [camp]. It’s a middle way. This can go well but we’ve got to be active about shaping that.”

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