Hundreds of leading technology companies and leaders including SpaceX, Tesla and Twitter CEO, Elon Musk and Apple Co-founder Steve Wozniak, have signed an open letter calling for an immediate halt in artificial intelligence (A.I.) development.
Twenty-six years on from IBM computer Deep Blue’s win against reigning world chess champion Garry Kasparov, the world of A.I. stands at yet another technological precipice. This time, however, the Future of Life Institute, an independent A.I., bio and nuclear technology regulatory body, issued a warning.
In an open letter addressed to A.I. labs and governmental regulatory bodies, the Institute implored those developing A.I. to cease development while ethical constraints can be put in place.
Concerned that A.I. poses ‘profound risks to society and humanity,’ the Institute recommends any software operating at a higher capacity than OpenAI’s GPT-4 - a popular, commercially available A.I. software - be reconfigured.
At a minimum, the institute requested that government regulatory authorities dedicated solely to the oversight of A.I. development be created . It is hoped that such agencies could help steer the ‘out-of-control race’ to develop powerful A.I. systems into beneficial tools for humanity.
Alarm bells rang when the institute's open letter drew an immediate reaction from a host of world-leading technological innovators and A.I. developers. Founders of Pinterest, Ripple, Getty Images, and Stability AI amongst others, have all thrown their weight behind the letter’s proposals.
The art world has already felt the sting of A.I. as computer-generated images flood the internet. Aside from the rampant copyright infringements needed to create the works, artists fear that the seamless A.I. art replications could irreparably damage the sanctity of human art.
Similar concerns have been raised in academia as prominent academics tussle with the potential of A.I. ChatGPT’s latest iteration, ChatGPT4, is capable of creating scientific papers that are fast becoming indistinguishable from human papers–in many cases, outshining professional academics.
The New York City school board implemented software that bans AI chatbots that created essay prompts on campuses. The Italian privacy regulator also announced that it was banning ChatGPT in the country, making Italy the first nation to prohibit its use.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates thinks the letter is too little, too late. Speaking to Reuters, he believes that a single letter won’t ‘solve the challenges’ of A.I. Mr. Gates published a blog just days earlier outlining what he believes is the humanity-altering potential of future systems.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about how AI can reduce some of the world’s worst inequities,” said Mr. Gates in his Gates Notes blog. “Any new technology that’s so disruptive is bound to make people uneasy, and that’s certainly true with artificial intelligence”.
In the place of unregulated A.I. development, the Institute cites the 2017 conference that created the Asilomar AI principles for guidance. Asilmor’s AI principles, regulatory guidelines supported by the late English theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, champion ethical transparency at the forefront of A.I. development.
The letter suggests that their implementation means ‘humanity can enjoy a flourishing future with AI’. The Institute does not seek to prohibit A.I. development but to properly harness its burgeoning potential.
‘AI research and development should be refocused on making today's powerful, state-of-the-art systems more accurate, safe, interpretable, transparent, robust, aligned, trustworthy, and loyal’.
Whether or not the government will heed the Future Institute’s words remains to be seen. The speed with which such unanimity was achieved in the upper echelons of the tech community, however, heralds dark omens in the world of A.I.
Edited by: Alanna Fullerton
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