Matt Warman MP


Matt Warman MP

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Article Published on

April 24

Parliamentary Tech Champion

In 15 years covering technology for the Telegraph, I saw the internet get into everything – from the iPhone and the Kindle to our boilers and cars, it is now everywhere.

At a recent dinner in Parliament, a senior former minister mentioned, quite casually, that we’re probably now closer to a world war than we have been for a generation. Not a single one of the other MPs around a quite large table batted an eyelid – but it wasn’t because they weren’t listening.

The truth is that there are already ‘hot’ wars in Ukraine and in Gaza and across other countries – but they are surrounded by a bigger series of cold wars that are already engulfing the West. Technology is at the front line of those supposedly chilly battles, but such is its connection to every aspect of our lives that the distinction between bloody wars and bloodless ones is less than it ever was. For that reason alone, governments need to work closer together with allies, and to be utterly robust.

In 15 years covering technology for the Telegraph, I saw the internet get into everything – from the iPhone and the Kindle to our boilers and cars, it is now everywhere. A single hack now poses ever greater threat; disinformation goes around the world before the truth has even got its bytes on; a Chinese butterfly flapping its wings near Taiwan might cause an earthquake in the West.

What though can be done in practice? Business and individuals must be more alert and more sceptical than ever, but ultimately cyber security is increasingly something that truly is on the scale that only governments can do it. Protecting citizens means making sure that Britain continues to punch above our weight in the development of AI, and therefore that we are more sceptical of those who might want to buy or invest in firms whose technology may be of great influence in the future.

The laudable mantra currently is that as the Government puts it, “[we] follow a ‘small garden, high fence’ approach: safeguarding the UK against the small number of deals that could be harmful to our security whilst leaving the vast majority of transactions unaffected.” The simple fact is that the garden is only going to grow, and the what ifs constantly seek to lower the height of the fence. Protectionism will be the enemy of innovation, but it is in a constant state of tension with the fact that it might be the friend to some extent of national security.

We should never forget that openness is often in fact itself a strength – it will require ever greater bravery for politicians to hold onto it.

Indeed, as NATO itself has said, “the continued ability of the Alliance to deter and defend against any potential adversary and to respond effectively to emerging crises will hinge on its ability to maintain its technological edge”.

Rishi Sunak’s AI safety summit last year, hosted by the UK, is the first and in some senses so far only global attempt to seize that nettle. It brought together governments, scientists, and academics to discuss how we can seize the opportunities of the AI industry whilst protecting states and the public from unintended consequences and risks.

That conversation must continue – the challenge will be to have it fast enough to make a difference, but with enough consideration that it doesn’t inadvertently diminish the good technology can do for all of us.

About the author

Matthew Robert Warman (born 1 September 1981) is a British Conservative Party politician and former journalist who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Boston and Skegness since 2015. He served as a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital Infrastructure from July 2019 to September 2021

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