AI pioneer quits Google, airs dangers of artificial intelligence

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In a surprise move, one of the pioneers of artificial intelligence (AI) has quit Google, where he worked for a decade, so he can speak freely about the dangers of the technology.

While he stressed that Google “acted responsibly,” Geoffrey Hinton – known as one of the “Godfathers of AI” – said on Twitter that he “left so that I could talk about the dangers of AI without considering how this impacts Google.”

Known for his work on artificial neural networks, the technology that powers AI such as ChatGPT, Hinton said in a New York Times interview that a part of him now regrets his life’s work.

“I console myself with the normal excuse: If I hadn’t done it, somebody else would have,” he was quoted as saying in the article. “It is hard to see how you can prevent the bad actors from using it for bad things.”

In a separate interview with Reuters, Hinton said AI could pose a “more urgent” threat to humanity than climate change.

“I wouldn’t like to devalue climate change. I wouldn’t like to say, ‘You shouldn’t worry about climate change.’ That’s a huge risk too… But I think this might end up being more urgent,” he said.

“With climate change, it’s very easy to recommend what you should do: you just stop burning carbon. If you do that, eventually things will be okay. For this it’s not at all clear what you should do,” he added.

But Hinton said he disagrees with the call of other technology leaders and AI researchers to pause “giant AI experiments.”

“It’s utterly unrealistic… I’m in the camp that thinks this is an existential risk, and it’s close enough that we ought to be working very hard right now, and putting a lot of resources into figuring out what we can do about it,” he said.

“There is so much possible benefit that I think we should continue to develop it but also put comparable resources into making sure it’s safe,” he said a separate Twitter post in response to an inquiry regarding research.

On the platform, he also responded to a question on how long he now thinks it would take for AI to become smarter than humans.

“I now predict 5 to 20 years but without much confidence. We live in very uncertain times. It’s possible that I am totally wrong about digital intelligence overtaking us. Nobody really knows which is why we should worry now,” he wrote.

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