Geoffrey Hinton, a cognitive psychologist and computer scientist known as the “Godfather of A.I.,” announced on Monday that he exited his position at Google and is no longer optimistic about the future of artificial intelligence.
The remarks come as other technology experts voice their concerns about the advent of ChatGPT, a mass-market AI tool based on a large language model developed by OpenAI, because of the possible effects on the flow of information and the specter of widespread unemployment. Hinton said in an interview with The New York Times that he spoke with Sundar Pichai, the chief executive of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, about his concerns.
“I console myself with the normal excuse: if I hadn’t done it, somebody else would have,” Hinton told the outlet. “It is hard to see how you can prevent the bad actors from using it for bad things.”
Google recently revealed that Bard, an experimental conversational AI service, would soon be added to the company’s search engine, a move that came one day after Microsoft, which invested billions of dollars into OpenAI, announced that the firm’s advancements would be incorporated into search engine Bing and browser Edge. Hinton said that the rushed move from Google means that he no longer considers the firm a “proper steward” for the technology.
Elon Musk, a co-founder of OpenAI who has since resigned his seat on the company’s board of directors, and Steve Wozniak, a co-founder of Apple, made headlines after they signed an open letter for the Future of Life Institute with hundreds of other technology leaders which called for a six-month moratorium on developing AI solutions as the world considers possible ramifications of the technology. A similar letter from the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence was signed by Eric Horvitz, the chief scientific officer of Microsoft, who has worked to implement OpenAI innovations into the company’s products.
Hinton, who developed a neural network that can learn how to identify common objects such as cats and flowers by examining thousands of pictures, said in the interview that he declined to endorse the letters because he wanted to avoid criticizing Google until he had officially left his position. He won the prestigious Turing Award for his “conceptual and engineering breakthroughs that have made deep neural networks a critical component of computing.”
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The veteran computer scientist added that he fears AI tools, which often exhibit unexpected behavior as they teach themselves new information, could one day run on code they develop, possibly abusing weapons and other technology entrusted to the systems.
“The idea that this stuff could actually get smarter than people, a few people believed that,” he continued. “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.”
Some technology experts, on the other hand, believe the concerns of individuals such as Musk and Hinton are overblown. Many analysts have nevertheless acknowledged that novel AI applications could severely disrupt the global economy and labor market as the technology becomes increasingly ubiquitous. One recent forecast from Goldman Sachs predicted that AI could eliminate 7% of positions in the United States, largely in sectors that rely upon office work.