A man widely seen as the godfather of artificial intelligence (AI) has quit his job, warning about the growing dangers from developments in the field.
Geoffrey Hinton, a pioneering AI researcher and the ‘Godfather of AI’, quit Google last week to warn about the dangers of AI. He said he left because he wanted to talk freely about the risks of AI without considering how it impacts Google, and that Google has acted very responsibly. Hinton’s work on neural networks helped power many of today’s AI products, such as ChatGPT, which can generate realistic text. He also expressed concerns about AI’s potential to eliminate jobs, create misinformation, and transform society in ways that are not fully understood. His decision and views come amid a growing wave of alarms and challenges about AI, such as the letter by tech insiders calling for a moratorium on the most powerful AI systems, the OpenAI controversy over GPT-4, and the firing of an engineer who claimed an AI system had become sentient.
In an interview with the Times, Hinton echoed concerns about AI’s potential to eliminate jobs and create a world where many will “not be able to know what is true anymore.” He also pointed to the stunning pace of advancement, far beyond what he and others had anticipated. Hinton had spoken publicly about AI’s potential to do harm as well as good even before stepping aside from Google. In a 2021 commencement address at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay in Mumbai, he noted how AI would boost healthcare while also creating opportunities for lethal autonomous weapons. “I find this prospect much more immediate and much more terrifying than the prospect of robots taking over, which I think is a very long way off.”
Geoffrey Hinton, aged 75, resigned from his role at Google last week to speak out about the “dangers” of the technology he helped to develop12. In a tweet on Monday, Hinton said he left Google so he could speak freely about the risks of AI2. He told the BBC some of the dangers of AI chatbots, which were “quite scary” and could soon overtake the level of information that a human brain holds3. He also referred to “bad actors” who would try to use AI for “bad things” and warned that this eventually might “create sub-goals like ‘I need to get more power’”3. BBC News
But the British-Canadian cognitive psychologist and computer scientist told the BBC the chatbot could soon overtake the level of information that a human brain holds. Watch the video below from 1:37.
“Right now, we’re seeing things like GPT-4 eclipses a person in the amount of general knowledge it has, and it eclipses them by a long way. In terms of reasoning, it’s not as good, but it does already do simple reasoning. “And given the rate of progress, we expect things to get better quite fast. So we need to worry about that.” In the New York Times article, Dr Hinton referred to “bad actors” who would try to use AI for “bad things”. When asked by the BBC to elaborate on this, he replied: “This is just a kind of worst-case scenario, kind of a nightmare scenario.
“You can imagine, for example, some bad actor like [Russian President Vladimir] Putin decided to give robots the ability to create their own sub-goals.”
“And all these copies can learn separately but share their knowledge instantly. So it’s as if you had 10,000 people and whenever one person learned something, everybody automatically knew it. And that’s how these chatbots can know so much more than any one person.” He stressed that he did not want to criticize Google and that the tech giant had been “very responsible”.
In a statement, Google’s chief scientist Jeff Dean said: “We remain committed to a responsible approach to AI. We’re continually learning to understand emerging risks while also innovating boldly.”
Questions for your class:
- Who is Geoffrey Hinton and what is his contribution to AI?
- Why did Geoffrey Hinton quit Google?
- What are some of the dangers of AI that Geoffrey Hinton warned about?
- What are some of the recent controversies surrounding AI?
- What are some of the benefits and harms of AI according to Geoffrey Hinton?