In a recent interview with Reuters, Geoffrey Hinton, widely considered one of the “godfathers of AI”, expressed his belief that artificial intelligence poses a potentially more pressing danger to humanity than climate change. Hinton, who recently left Alphabet after a decade at the firm, is concerned about the risks associated with the technology and wanted to speak out on the matter without it impacting his former employer.
Hinton’s work is essential to the development of contemporary AI systems. He co-authored the seminal 1986 paper “Learning representations by back-propagating errors”, which marked a milestone in the creation of the neural networks that underpin AI technology. In 2018, he received the Turing Award in recognition of his research achievements.
However, Hinton is now one of many technology leaders expressing concern about the potential threat of AI if machines were to surpass human intelligence and take over the world. Despite acknowledging the serious risks associated with climate change, he believes that AI could prove to be an even more urgent issue.
According to Hinton, it is much simpler to recommend a course of action to combat climate change, as it involves reducing carbon emissions. In contrast, it is unclear what steps can be taken to mitigate the risks associated with AI, which could pose a serious existential threat to humanity.
Last November, Microsoft-backed OpenAI launched the AI-powered chatbot ChatGPT, which quickly became the fastest-growing app in history, reaching 100 million monthly users in just two months. However, in April, Twitter CEO Elon Musk and several other AI experts signed an open letter calling for a six-month pause in the development of systems more powerful than OpenAI’s recently-launched GPT-4.
While Hinton shares their concern about the potential dangers of AI, he does not believe that pausing research is a viable solution. He believes that the risks are significant enough to warrant continued and intensive research efforts to determine what can be done to mitigate them.
In response to the Musk-backed letter, a committee of lawmakers in the European Union called for a global summit on the future of AI with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and U.S. President Joe Biden. Last week, the committee agreed on a set of proposals targeting generative AI that would require companies like OpenAI to disclose any copyright material used to train their models.
Biden has also held talks with several AI company leaders, including Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai and OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, at the White House. During the talks, he emphasized the need for greater transparency regarding the development of AI systems.