A man widely seen as the godfather of artificial intelligence (AI) has quit his job, warning of growing dangers from developments in the field.
Jeffrey Hinton, 75, announced his resignation from Google in a statement to the New York Times, saying he now regrets his work.
He told the BBC that some of the risks of intelligent chatbots are “very scary”.
“At the moment, they are no smarter than us, as far as I can tell. But I think they may soon be.”
Dr. Hinton’s pioneering research on deep learning and neural networks paved the way for current AI systems such as ChatGPT.
But a British-Canadian cognitive psychologist and computer scientist told the BBC that a chatbot could soon surpass the level of information held by the human brain.
“At the moment, what we’re seeing is that things like GPT-4 outperform a person in the amount of general knowledge they have and outperform a person a lot. In terms of reasoning, it’s not very good, but it does do simple thinking.
“And given the rate of progress, we expect things to improve very quickly. So we have to worry about that.”
In a New York Times article, Dr. Hinton referred to “bad actors” who would try to use AI for “bad things.”
When asked by the BBC to elaborate on this, he replied: “This is just a worst-case scenario, a nightmare-scenario kind of thing.
“You can imagine, for example, some bad actors like [Russian President Vladimir] Putin decided to give bots the ability to create their own sub-targets.
Ultimately, this could “create sub-goals like ‘I need to get more powerful,'” the scientist warned.
He added, “I’ve come to the conclusion that the type of intelligence we develop is very different from the intelligence we have.
“We are biological systems and these are digital systems. The big difference is that with digital systems, you have many copies of the same set of weights, the same model of the world.
“And all these clones can learn separately but share their knowledge instantly. So it’s like if you have 10,000 people and whenever someone learns something, everyone knows it automatically. And so these chatbots can know a lot more than any one person.”
Dr. Hinton also said there were several other reasons for leaving his job.
“One is, I’m 75. So it’s time to retire. Another was, I really want to say some good things about Google. It would be more credible if I didn’t work for Google.”
He emphasized that he did not want to criticize Google and that the tech giant was “very responsible”.
In a statement, Google Chief Scientist Jeff Dean said, “We remain committed to a responsible approach to AI. We are constantly learning to understand emerging risks while also innovating boldly.”
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