The Dangers of Artificial Intelligence: Insights from AI Pioneer Geoffrey Hinton
Artificial intelligence (AI) has become a popular topic among high-profile figures, including industrialist Elon Musk, leftist intellectual Noam Chomsky, and retired statesman Henry Kissinger. However, it is the concerns of insiders in the AI research community that are attracting particular attention. One such insider is pioneering researcher Geoffrey Hinton.
Hinton is known as the “Godfather of AI” due to his decades-long career working on deep learning and neural networks that helped lay the foundation for much of today’s AI technology. He recently quit his role at Google so he could more freely speak about the dangers of the technology he helped create.
The Spasm of AI Introductions
In recent months there has been a spasm of introductions for new artificial intelligence models. San Francisco-based startup OpenAI rolled out its latest model GPT-4 in March while other tech giants have invested in competing tools like Google’s “Bard.”
Dangers Posed by Chatbots
According to Hinton, some chatbot-related dangers are “quite scary.” In an interview with BBC News he said: “Right now they’re not more intelligent than us as far as I can tell but I think they soon may be.” He also pointed out that bad actors might use AI in ways that could have detrimental impacts on society – such as manipulating elections or instigating violence.
Hinton Retires from Google to Speak Freely About Risks Associated With Artificial Intelligence
Geoffrey Hinton retired from his position at Google after 10 years overseeing their Research team in Toronto so he could speak openly about potential risks as someone who no longer works for the tech giant. “I want to talk about AI safety issues without having to worry about how it interacts with Google’s business,” he told MIT Technology Review. “As long as I’m paid by Google, I can’t do that.”
Since announcing his departure, Hinton has maintained that Google has “acted very responsibly” regarding AI. He also said there are many good things about Google that he would like to talk about but those comments would be “much more credible if I’m not at Google anymore.”
The Debate on the State of AI
The debate on the state of artificial intelligence revolves around whether primary dangers are in the future or present. On one side are hypothetical scenarios of existential risk caused by computers that supersede human intelligence while concerns exist over automated technology already widely deployed by businesses and governments which can cause real-world harms.
“For good or for not, what the chatbot moment has done is made AI a national conversation and an international conversation that doesn’t only include AI experts and developers,” said Alondra Nelson, former leader of White House Office of Science and Technology Policy in an interview last month.
Bias in AI Systems
A number of researchers have expressed concerns about racial, gender, and other forms of bias in AI systems including text-based large language models trained on huge troves of human writing which can amplify discrimination existing within society.
Hinton’s Turing Award Win
In 2019 Hinton was one out three pioneers who won the Turing Award – known as tech industry’s version Nobel Prize – along with Yoshua Bengio and Yann LeCun. Both Bengio (a professor at University Montreal) signed a petition calling for a six-month pause on developing powerful artificial intelligence systems, while LeCun (a top AI scientist at Facebook parent Meta) has taken a more optimistic approach.
Geoffrey Hinton declined further comment on the matter but said he would talk more about it at a conference Wednesday. AP Technology Reporter Matt O’Brien reported from Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The Need for Responsible Use of AI Tools
We need to take a step back and really think about whose needs are being put front and center in the discussion about risks,” said Sarah Myers West, managing director of the nonprofit AI Now Institute. “The harms that are being enacted by AI systems today are really not evenly distributed. It’s very much exacerbating existing patterns of inequality.”
The conversation around artificial intelligence is no longer abstract; it is now an international conversation that includes experts and developers as well as policymakers and concerned citizens alike. As we continue to develop new technologies, it’s important to consider their potential impact on society and work towards responsible use.