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Artificial Intelligence a “More Urgent” Threat than Climate Change



Artificial Intelligence a More Urgent Threat than Climate Change

In an interview with Reuters on Friday, AI pioneer Geoffrey Hinton said that artificial intelligence could be a “more urgent” threat to civilization than climate change.

Geoffrey Hinton, generally regarded as one of the “godfathers of AI,” recently announced his departure from Alphabet (GOOGL.O) after a decade with the company, stating that he wanted to speak out about the risks of the technology without jeopardizing his former business.

Hinton’s work is regarded as critical to the advancement of modern AI systems. He co-wrote the key paper “Learning representations by back-propagating errors” in 1986, which was a watershed moment in the evolution of the neural networks that underpin AI technology. In 2018, he received the Turing Award for his research discoveries.

Artificial Intelligence a "More Urgent" Threat than Climate Change

However, he is now one of an increasing number of industry leaders publicly expressing alarm about the potential threat posed by AI if computers attain greater intelligence than humans and take over the world.

“I don’t want to undervalue climate change.” I don’t want to suggest, ‘You shouldn’t be concerned about climate change.’ “That’s also a big risk,” Hinton remarked. “However, I believe this will end up being more urgent.”

“With climate change, it’s very easy to recommend what you should do: just stop burning carbon,” he added. If you do that, things will get better. It’s not clear what you should do in this case.”

In November, Microsoft-backed (MSFT.O) OpenAI fired the starting pistol in a technical arms race by making AI-powered chatbot ChatGPT open to the public. It quickly became the fastest-growing app in history, with 100 million monthly users reached in just two months.

Musk warns over artificial intelligence

Twitter CEO Elon Musk signed an open letter in April advocating for a six-month freeze on the development of systems more powerful than OpenAI’s newly announced GPT-4.

Signatories included Stability AI CEO Emad Mostaque, DeepMind researchers, and fellow AI pioneers Yoshua Bengio and Stuart Russell.

While Hinton shared the signatories’ worry that AI could pose an existential threat to humanity, he disagreed with the decision to halt development.

“It’s utterly unrealistic,” he remarked. “I’m in the camp that believes this is an existential threat, and it’s close enough that we should be working very hard right now to figure out what we can do about it.”

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In response to Musk’s letter, a European Union committee of legislators called on US President Joe Biden to hold a worldwide summit on the future direction of technology alongside European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

The committee agreed last week on a major set of proposals aimed at generative AI, which would require businesses like OpenAI to disclose any copyright material used to train their models.

Meanwhile, Biden met with a number of AI executives at the White House, including Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai and OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, promising a “frank and constructive discussion” about the need for firms to be more transparent about their systems.

“The tech leaders have the best understanding of it, and politicians must be involved,” Hinton explained. “It affects us all, so we all have to think about it.”

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