Artificial intelligence “godfather” Geoffrey Hinton has resigned from his job at Google, saying that “bad actors” will use new AI technologies to harm others and that the tools he helped to create could spell the end of humanity.
Dr Hinton has spent his entire career researching the development and uses of AI technologies, and in 2018 received the Turing Award for his work.
Since 2013 he has split his time between Google’s artificial intelligence research team and the University of Toronto, where he is a professor emeritus.
In a profile by the New York Times, Dr Hinton says that “it is hard to see how you can prevent the bad actors from using it for bad things”.
“I console myself with the normal excuse: If I hadn’t done it, somebody else would have,” he told the paper, adding that the progress made in AI technology over the last five years is “scary”.
However, Dr Hinton said on Twitter yesterday that he thought Google had acted “very responsibly”, adding that he left the company “so that I could talk about the dangers of AI without considering how this impacts Google”.
AI apps such as Midjourney and ChatGPT have gone viral on social media sites, with users posting fake images of celebrities and politicians, and students using ChatGPT and other “language learning models” to generate university-grade essays.
However, a growing number of experts are claiming that AI development should be slowed down or halted, with more than a thousand tech leaders signing a letter to call for a “moratorium” in March.
In a further interview with the BBC, Dr Hinton said that he is now concerned that artificial intelligence poses a serious risk to humans.
“You can get lots of very effective spam bots, it’ll allow authoritarian leaders to manipulate their electorates,” he said.
“There’s another particular thing I want to talk about, which is the existential risk of what happens when these things get more intelligent than us.
“We’re biological systems, these are digital systems, and the difference is that with digital systems you have many copies of the same set of weights, the same model of the world.
“All these copies can learn separately but share their knowledge instantly. So it’s as if you had 10,000 people, and whenever one person learned something everybody automatically knew it. That’s how these chats can know so much more than any one person.”
Dr Hinton, 75, studied experimental psychology at the University of Cambridge before obtaining his PhD in artificial intelligence from Edinburgh University, in 1978.
In 2012, Dr Hinton and two of his graduate students built a “neural network” that could analyse photos and identify common objects, which was hailed as a significant milestone in AI development.
Dr Hinton has refused to take funding from the American military throughout his career, leaving academia in the US and moving to Canada to continue his research.
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