Daily Management Review

Pioneer Of AI Claims The Threat To The Globe Could Be 'More Urgent' Than Climate Change


In an interview with Reuters on Friday, AI pioneer Geoffrey Hinton said that artificial intelligence could be a "more urgent" threat to civilization than climate change.
Geoffrey Hinton, generally regarded as one of the "godfathers of AI," recently announced his departure from Alphabet after a decade with the company, stating that he wanted to speak out about the risks of the technology without jeopardising his former employer.
Hinton's work is regarded as critical to the advancement of modern AI systems. He co-wrote the key paper "Learning representations by back-propagating errors" in 1986, which was a watershed moment in the evolution of the neural networks that underpin AI technology. In 2018, he received the Turing Award for his research discoveries.
However, he is now one of an increasing number of industry leaders publicly expressing alarm about the potential threat posed by AI if computers attain greater intelligence than humans and take over the world.
"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," Hinton said. "But I think this might end up being more urgent."
He added: "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."
Microsoft-backed In November, OpenAI fired the starting pistol in a technological arms race by making its AI-powered chatbot ChatGPT open to the public. It quickly became the fastest-growing app in history, with 100 million monthly users reached in just two months.
Twitter CEO Elon Musk signed an open letter in April advocating for a six-month freeze on the development of systems more powerful than OpenAI's newly announced GPT-4.
Signatories included Stability AI CEO Emad Mostaque, DeepMind researchers, and fellow AI pioneers Yoshua Bengio and Stuart Russell.
While Hinton shared the signatories' worry that AI could pose an existential threat to humanity, he disagreed with the decision to halt development.
“It’s utterly unrealistic,” he said. “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.”
In response to Musk's letter, a European Union committee of legislators called on US President Joe Biden to hold a worldwide summit on the future direction of technology alongside European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
The committee agreed last week on a major set of proposals aimed at generative AI, which would require businesses like OpenAI to disclose any copyright material used to train their models.
Meanwhile, Biden met with a number of AI executives at the White House, including Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai and OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, promising a "frank and constructive discussion" about the need for firms to be more transparent about their systems.
“The tech leaders have the best understanding of it, and the politicians have to be involved,” said Hinton. “It affects us all, so we all have to think about it.”