Geoffrey Hinton, often called “the Godfather of AI,” spent most of his career singing the praises of artificial intelligence. But now he’s warning of the dangers.
In an interview with the New York Times, Hinton talked about his decision to leave Google, where he was co-founder of Google Brain, a research team that develops artificial intelligence systems.
“It is hard to see how you can prevent the bad actors from using it for bad things,” Hinton said.
Hinton joins several high-profile AI pioneers concerned about the technology’s future. After ChatGPT debuted in March, an open letter signed by more than 1,000 people urged for a six-month pause on the development of systems more advanced than ChatGPT-4.
In a tweet earlier today, Elon Musk warned that “even benign dependency on AI/Automation is dangerous to civilization.”
Even benign dependency on AI/Automation is dangerous to civilization if taken so far that we eventually forget how the machines work
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 1, 2023
Hinton has many concerns about AI. But the most pressing is the spread of misinformation. From deepfakes to AI-powered bots, the internet is loaded with fake photos, videos, and stories. Just last week, Universal Music had to pull down a fake Drake song created by AI that was so believable most people thought it was him singing.
Hinton says the confusion between reality vs. AI-generated content will make it so people will “not be able to know what is true anymore.”
Learning to fast
Like the scientists and thought leaders who signed the open letter a few months ago, Hinton is concerned with the speed at which AI technology is advancing. Major tech companies such as Google and Microsoft compete for AI dominance, causing the race to accelerate.
“Look at how it was five years ago and how it is now,” Hinton said. “Take the difference and propagate it forward. That’s scary.”
Getting smarter than humans
Hinton is one of the people responsible for developing a type of machine learning that uses artificial neural networks. He once said, “The only way to get artificial intelligence to work is to do the computation in a way similar to the human brain.”
But now he’s worried that AI might become more advanced than the human brain.
“The idea that this stuff could actually get smarter than people — a few people believed that,” he told the Times. “But most people thought it was way off. And I thought it was way off. I thought it was 30 to 50 years or even longer away. Obviously, I no longer think that.”
Hinton, 75, is now devoting the rest of his life to making sure the technology he helped to create won’t destroy civilization. Does he feel bad about what he helped usher into the world?
“I console myself with the normal excuse: If I hadn’t done it, somebody else would have,” he said.