The Godfather of A.I. Leaves Google and Warns of Danger Ahead
Geoffrey Hinton, the “Godfather of A.I.” and pioneer in artificial intelligence, has officially resigned from his job at Google, where he worked for over a decade. He has become one of the most respected voices in the field of A.I. and is now joining a growing chorus of critics who are warning of the dangers of generative artificial intelligence-based products, such as popular chatbots like ChatGPT. He regrets his life’s work and has now decided to speak out about the risks posed by A.I.
The Danger of A.I.
Industry leaders believe that the new A.I. systems could be as important as the introduction of the web browser in the early 1990s. Still, many insiders fear that they are releasing something dangerous into the wild. Generative A.I. can already be a tool for misinformation and could be a risk to jobs soon. And somewhere down the line, tech’s biggest worriers say, it could also be a risk to humanity. “It is hard to see how you can prevent the bad actors from using it for bad things,” Dr. Hinton said.
From A.I. groundbreaker to doomsayer
Dr. Hinton’s journey from A.I. groundbreaker to doomsayer marks a remarkable moment for the technology industry at perhaps its most important inflection point in decades. In 1972, as a graduate student at the University of Edinburgh, Dr. Hinton embraced an idea called a neural network. A neural network is a mathematical system that learns skills by analyzing data. In the 1980s, Dr. Hinton was a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University but left the university for Canada because he said he was reluctant to take Pentagon funding. At the time, most A.I. research in the United States was funded by the Defense Department.
- After the San Francisco start-up OpenAI released a new version of ChatGPT in March, more than 1,000 technology leaders and researchers signed an open letter calling for a six-month moratorium on the development of new systems because A.I. technologies pose “profound risks to society and humanity.”
- Several days later, 19 current and former leaders of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, a 40-year-old academic society, released their letter warning of the risks of A.I.
- Dr. Hinton did not sign either of those letters and said he did not want to publicly criticize Google or other companies until he had quit his job.
Dr. Hinton’s message is simple: he is tired of being unable to speak freely about the risks of A.I. Concerned about the release of something dangerous into the wild and the long-term consequences of artificial intelligence, he warns that the aggressive campaign by companies to create products based on generative artificial intelligence signals a danger ahead. He is not alone. As more insiders join in, the year 2021 could become a defining moment for the future of artificial intelligence.
The journey of Dr. Hinton from A.I. groundbreaker to doomsayer signifies a moment of great importance for the technology industry at its most critical point in decades. Though tech leaders believe that A.I. systems of the future could lead to breakthroughs in areas ranging from drug research to education, the fear that such developments pose a profound risk to society and humanity continues to grow. And as more individuals, including Dr. Hinton, speak up and voice their concern, this only solidifies the importance of a responsible approach to A.I. development.