AI Pioneer Leaves Google, Cautions About Tech Risks

The concerns about the potential dangers of artificial intelligence (AI) have been voiced by high-profile figures including Elon Musk, Noam Chomsky, and Henry Kissinger. However, the worries of insiders in the AI research community are now attracting particular attention. Geoffrey Hinton, a pioneering researcher and the “Godfather of AI,” recently quit his role at Google so that he could speak more freely about the dangers of the technology he helped create. Hinton’s pioneering work on deep learning and neural networks helped lay the foundation for much of the AI technology we see today.

Hinton warned that some of the dangers of AI chatbots are “quite scary,” and he also pointed to “bad actors” that may use AI in ways that could have detrimental impacts on society, such as manipulating elections or instigating violence. Hinton retired from Google so that he could speak openly about potential risks as someone who no longer works for the tech giant.

At the heart of the debate on the state of AI is whether the primary dangers are in the future or present. On one side are hypothetical scenarios of existential risk caused by computers that supersede human intelligence. On the other are concerns about automated technology that’s already getting widely deployed by businesses and governments and can cause real-world harms.

A number of AI researchers have expressed concerns about racial, gender, and other forms of bias in AI systems, including text-based large language models that are trained on huge troves of human writing and can amplify discrimination that exists in society. Hinton was one of three AI pioneers who won the Turing Award in 2019, an honor that has become known as the tech industry’s version of the Nobel Prize. The other two winners, Yoshua Bengio and Yann LeCun, have also expressed concerns about the future of AI. Bengio signed a petition in late March calling for tech companies to agree to a 6-month pause on developing powerful AI systems, while LeCun has taken a more optimistic approach.


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