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“The Godfather of AI” warns of future AI danger

Goeffrey Hinton, an artificial intelligence (AI) pioneer, joined the growing number of critics and warned about the dangers of AI after he has quit his job at Google.

Dr Hinton, talking to New York Times, said he has quit his job at Google, where he has worked for more than a decade and became one of the most respected voices in the field, so he can freely speak out about the risks of AI.

New AI systems, which are believed to be as important as the introduction of web browser in the early 1990s, lay at the foundation of popular chatbots like ChatGPT.

Many critics said that companies are racing toward danger with their aggressive campaign to create products based on generative AI systems. These critics included 19 current and former leaders of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), a 40-year-old academic society, who warned of the risks of AI in an open letter dated 22 March 2023, with the title of “Pause Giant AI Experiments”.

All AI labs called on to immediately pause the training of AI systems

The letter said: “AI systems with human-competitive intelligence can pose profound risks to society and humanity, as shown by extensive research and acknowledged by top AI labs. 

“As stated in the widely-endorsed Asilomar AI Principles, Advanced AI could represent a profound change in the history of life on Earth, and should be planned for and managed with commensurate care and resources.

“Unfortunately, this level of planning and management is not happening, even though recent months have seen AI labs locked in an out-of-control race to develop and deploy ever more powerful digital minds that no one – not even their creators – can understand, predict, or reliably control.

“Powerful AI systems should be developed only once we are confident that their effects will be positive and their risks will be manageable.

“Therefore, we call on all AI labs to immediately pause for at least 6 months the training of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4. This pause should be public and verifiable, and include all key actors. If such a pause cannot be enacted quickly, governments should step in and institute a moratorium.”

Future AI technologies may pose a threat to humanity

Although Dr Hinton, a 75-year-old British expatriate often called “the Godfather of AI”, did not sign any letters, he believes AI systems become increasingly dangerous as companies improve them.

Starting from 1972, when he was a graduate student at the University of Edinburgh, through 2012, when he built a neural network with two of his students in Toronto, he laid the foundations for increasingly powerful technologies, including chatbots like ChatGPT and Google Bard.

Then, as Google and OpenAI built systems using much larger amounts of data, his view that the systems were inferior to the human brain was changed. He still thought they were inferior in some ways, but they were eclipsing human intelligence in others.

“Maybe what is going on in these systems is actually a lot better than what is going on in the brain,” he told New York Times.

Now, he says, he is worried AI systems may pose a threat to humanity: “The idea that this stuff could actually get smarter than people – a few people believed that.

“But most people thought it was way off.

“I thought it was 30 to 50 years or even longer away.

“Obviously, I no longer believe that.”

Whittaker: There was a moment to act together, they didn’t use their power that way

Meredith Whittaker, president of Signal, commented on what Dr Hinton shared with New York Times after he left Google.

She said: “This is not new or novel”.

“Where were these guys when we spent months + thousand$ on lawyers? Where were they when we were organizing to stop it before it reached this point? Where were they when Sundar lied about us & diminished the risks we demonstrated? I’m not interested in dissent without solidarity,” Whittaker shared on Twitter.

She added: “This isn’t about credit, this is about the fact that there was a moment to act together, when the power these Men of AI wield could have been used in solidarity with a movement that was gaining ground to stop the worst of AI. They didn’t use their power that way. And here we are.”

(Geoffrey Hinton’s photo from Twitter)

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