‘Godfather of Artificial Intelligence’ urges governments to stop machine takeovers

Computer scientist Geoffrey Hinton, known as the

Computer scientist Geoffrey Hinton, known as the ‘Godfather of AI’, speaks at the Collision Tech Conference in Toronto, Canada

TORONTO (CANADA): Geoffrey Hinton, one of the so-called godfathers of artificial intelligence (AI), on Wednesday urged governments to step in and make sure machines don’t take over society.

Hinton made headlines in May when he announced he was leaving Google after a decade of working to speak more freely about the dangers of AI, shortly after the release of ChatGPT captured the world’s imagination.

The respected AI scientist, who is based at the University of Toronto, was speaking to a packed audience at the Collision technology conference in the Canadian city.

The conference brought together more than 30,000 startup founders, investors and tech workers, most of whom were looking to learn how to ride the wave of AI and not listen to a lecture about its dangers.

“Before AI is smarter than us, I think the people developing it should be encouraged to put a lot of effort into understanding how it might try to take control away,” Hinton said.

“Right now there are 99 very smart people trying to improve AI and one very smart person trying to figure out how to prevent it from taking over, and maybe you want to be more level-headed,” he said.

Hinton warned that the risks of AI should be taken seriously despite his critics who believe he is exaggerating the risks.

“I think it’s important that people understand that this is not science fiction, this is not just scaremongering,” he insisted. “It’s a real risk that we need to think about and we need to figure out how to deal with it in advance.”

Hinton also expressed concern that AI would exacerbate inequality, with the huge productivity gain from its implementation benefiting the wealthy not working people.

“The wealth will not go to the people who do the work. It will make the rich richer and not the poorer and that is very bad for society,” he added.

He also highlighted the danger of fake news created by ChatGPT-style bots and said he hoped AI-generated content could be marked up similar to how central banks watermark cash.

“It’s very important to try, for example, to mark anything fake as fake. Whether we can technically do that, I don’t know,” he said.

The European Union is considering such a technique in its AI Act, legislation that will set the rules for AI in Europe, which is currently being negotiated by lawmakers.

“Overpopulation on Mars”

Hinton’s list of AI dangers contrasted with conference discussions that were less about security and threats and more about seizing the opportunity created in the wake of ChatGPT.

Venture capitalist Sarah Guo said gloomy and negative talk about AI as an existential threat was premature and likened it to “talk about overpopulation on Mars,” citing another AI guru, Andrew Ng.

He also warned against the “regulatory capture” that would see government intervention protect incumbents before it has a chance to benefit sectors such as healthcare, education or science.

Opinions differed as to whether the current generative AI giants, mainly Microsoft-backed OpenAI and Google, will remain unrivaled or whether new players will expand the field with their own models and innovations.

“Five years from now, I still imagine that if you’re going to go find the best, most accurate, most advanced general model, you’re probably still going to have to go to one of the few companies that has the capital to do it,” said Leigh Marie Braswell of the venture firm capital Kleiner Perkins.

Gradient Ventures’ Zachary Bratun-Glennon said he envisions a future where “there will be millions of models on a network just like we have a network of websites today.”

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