The “Godfather” of artificial intelligence has just quit his job at Google over fears that the technology will become too smart.
His warning comes after the booming popularity of the AI chatbot ChatGPT prompted global worries that jobs and society as a whole might soon be on the line if the tech really does end up taking over...
What just happened?
Geoffrey Hinton, 75, has resigned from Google, saying he partly regrets his life’s work.
The cognitive psychologist and computer scientist is known as a pioneer within the AI field, because his own work on deep learning and neural networks helped to establish a route for the current intelligent systems like ChatCPT.
During several media interviews, Hinton said he was retiring because of the driven by changes in the field and his own worries about AI, while emphasising that Google itself has been “very responsible” and that he plans to say “some good things” about the tech giant.
Remarking on Hinton’s departure, Google said: “We remain committed to a responsible approach to AI. We’re continually learning to understand emerging risks while also innovating boldly.”
So, why is Hinton worried about AI?
A spiralling AI race
Hinton said that the tech giants were caught in a competition with each other to develop the most sophisticated AI in the shortest time possible – and it might end up escalating out of control.
Hinton told the New York Times: “The idea that this stuff could actually get smarter than people – a few people believed that.
“But most people thought it was way off. And I thought it was way off. I thought it was 30 to 50 years or even longer away. Obviously, I no longer think that.”
He also said it’s impossible to know if countries are working on this in secret, much like with nuclear weapons.
Growing levels of intelligence
Hinton told the BBC that the dangers of AI chatbots are “quite scary”, adding: “Right now, they’re not more intelligent than us, as far as I can tell. But I think they soon may be.”
He continued: “Right now, what we’re seeing is 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.”
He emphasised that the AI intelligence is different to human intelligence, as it’s able to share and retain so much more knowledge.
He told the New York Times: “Maybe what is going on in these systems is actually a lot better than what is going on in the brain.”
He also warned about a “nightmare scenario” where a bad actor – such as the authoritarian Russian president Vladimir Putin – could “give robots the ability to create their own sub-goals”.
He said this could even stretch AI to try to increase its own power, if it was instructed to do so.
He said that AI tech could – instead of complementing human work – could replace all kinds of jobs which relay on rote work, and maybe more. He told the NYT: “It takes away the drudge work. It might take away more than that.”
Hinton said that the internet could be overwhelmed with false photos, videos and text so that most people cannot identify what is real.
In fact, this already happened on a small scale. A viral image of the Pope wearing a huge white puffer jacket was created by AI but it fooled the internet for a couple of days only last month.
Is anyone else worried?
Yes – more than 1,000 technology leaders and researchers asked for a six-month break on the development of new systems in an open letter, claiming that the new tech poses “profound risks to society and humanity”.
It was followed by another letter from 19 current and former leaders of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, an academic society, warning about AI.