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Does AI Have a Dark Side?

‘Godfather of AI’ sounds the alarm on the technology he helped build.

May 4, 2023

In a recent article by the BBC, British-Canadian cognitive psychologist and computer scientist Geoffrey Hinton—the aptly named “Godfather of AI” for his role in creating artificial intelligence (AI) technology—expressed his concerns about the dangers of AI to society.

While AI creations such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT, which will write content in only a matter of seconds, appear to be a godsend to businesses by eliminating workload, Hinton, who earned his nickname thanks to decades of research on neural networks and deep learning, warned that AI could be applied to much more sinister applications by people he called “bad actors.”

Describing AI chatbots as “quite scary,” Hinton told the BBC, “Right now, they’re not more intelligent than us, as far as I can tell. But I think they soon may be.” He believes that AI’s ability to deep learn—that is, to learn from experience as people do—could enable chatbots to reach the same level of information as that of a human brain.

“Right now, what we’re seeing is things like GPT-4 [another AI product by OpenAI] 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,” Hinton said. “And given the rate of progress, we expect things to get better quite fast. So, we need to worry about that.”

“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,” he continued, suggesting as an example the request to have more power.

According to the BBC, Hinton left his employer, Google, on March 25, 2023, in order to speak more freely on the ethical use of AI. In a statement to the New York Times announcing his resignation, he said that he now regrets his work that resulted in current AI technology. He also cited his age, 75, as a reason for leaving.

“I console myself with the normal excuse: If I hadn’t done it, somebody else would have,” Hinton told the Times.

He’s not alone in sounding the alarm on AI dangers. An open letter by tech entrepreneur Elon Musk in March called for a “pause” on any further developments with AI until safety measures could be set in place. The letter was also signed by Yoshaua Bengio—another contributor to the creation of AI technology—as well as Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple.

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