AI ‘extinction’ should be same priority as nuclear war – experts

The Center for AI Safety has released a statement signed by 350 industry leaders, including the CEOs of OpenAI and Google DeepMind

Preventing runaway artificial intelligence from causing the extinction of humanity should be a top-level global priority, the nonprofit Center for AI Safety said in a statement on Tuesday signed by 350 prominent individuals in AI and related fields.

“Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war,” the statement reads. 

Signers included Google DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis, Anthropic CEO Dario Amodei, and OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, who recently told Congress he was worried the technology could go “quite wrong” and urged them to impose regulations on the industry. The three industry leaders met with US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris earlier this month to discuss potential regulations. Numerous executives from their companies also added their names to Tuesday’s statement. 

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Geoffrey Hinton and Yoshua Bengio, considered the “godfathers of AI” for their work on neural networks, were listed first on the document, though Yann LeCun, who did the research with them and now runs AI research for Meta, did not sign. Hinton left his position at Google earlier this month to sound the alarm about AI risks and has said he sometimes regrets his life’s work. 

The letter represents a “coming out” for industry leaders who previously kept their concerns about the future of AI under wraps, Center for AI Safety executive director Dan Hendrycks told the New York Times on Tuesday.

“There’s a very common misconception, even in the AIA community, that there are only a handful of doomers,” he explained, clarifying that “many people privately would express concerns about these things.” 

The message echoes another open letter published in March by the Future of Life Institute, arguing for a six-month moratorium on large-scale AI developments in order to avoid “an out-of-control race to develop and deploy ever more powerful digital minds.” That message was signed by more than 1,000 influential figures in tech, including billionaire Elon Musk, who just received US government approval to go ahead with human testing on his Neuralink brain-computer interface, which is meant to give people a competitive advantage against AI.

Not all AI influencers are gun-shy, however. Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang recently told an audience at National Taiwan University that those who didn’t jump on the AI juggernaut would see their jobs stolen, their companies perish, and themselves eaten – at least metaphorically – while Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, a big AI investor, insists the technology will bring only “huge benefits.” 

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