AI pioneer warns of a looming technological turning point

May 28, 2023, 12:05 PM UTC
2 mins read
AI pioneer warns of a looming technological turning point

Renowned as the “godfather of AI,” Geoffrey Hinton, has been sounding the alarm about the potential dangers of artificial intelligence (AI) even after stepping down from his position at Google. In a recent interview with NPR, Hinton expressed serious concerns about the imminent rise of superintelligent machines and their potential to develop malevolent intentions.

Hinton emphasized the need for immediate contemplation by politicians and industry leaders regarding the potential consequences of technological progress. He cautioned that the development of artificial general intelligence, capable of comprehending and learning any intellectual task performed by humans, is no longer a distant fantasy but a realistic probability.

Previously, Hinton believed that such advancements were decades away. However, he now asserts that the timeline may be much shorter, speculating that the world could witness the emergence of artificial general intelligence within a mere five years.

While some individuals liken AI, such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT, to mere autocomplete tools, Hinton argued that these systems possess a genuine capacity to understand. Clarifying his stance, he expressed that although he does not claim they are sentient, he refrains from ruling out the possibility entirely. Hinton acknowledged that AI can undoubtedly think and comprehend information, cautioning against confounding the issue by introducing subjective experiences and delving into quasi-religious debates.

Hinton recounted his disconcerting experience with Google’s PaLM model, expressing astonishment at its level of sophistication. PaLM understood jokes and the underlying reasons for their humor, raising concerns about the expanding capabilities of AI. Google subsequently launched PaLM 2, a next-generation large language model featuring enhanced multilingual, reasoning, and coding capabilities.

The release of increasingly advanced AI models has led to apprehension regarding job displacement, political discord, and the proliferation of disinformation. Several influential figures, such as Elon Musk, who possesses his own AI ventures, signed an open letter advocating for a six-month moratorium on training AI systems more powerful than GPT-4. However, Hinton questioned the feasibility of halting research, suggesting that if restrictions were imposed, the research would likely continue in countries like China.

Hinton emphasized the imperative for leaders to allocate substantial resources and efforts into developing strategies that maintain control even in the face of superior machine intelligence. He acknowledged the potential benefits AI could bring while underscoring the urgent necessity to address the existential threat it poses. Hinton acknowledged that individuals who raise concerns about such issues have historically been dismissed as eccentric or alarmist, and he aims to ensure their voices are heard.

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