Last Monday Geoffrey Hinton announced his resignation from Google in an interview with the New York Times to warn about the possible dangers that lay ahead with the advancement of AI technology.
Hinton has been dubbed the godfather of artificial intelligence (AI). The British-Canadian cognitive psychologist and computer scientist is most noted for helping to develop artificial neural networks, the technology which is at the core of machine learning.
Although throughout his career, the last decade of which he’s spent divided between teaching at the University of Toronto and working for Google’s deep-learning artificial intelligence team, he never thought that artificial Intelligence would surpass human intelligence – at least not in our lifetimes.
It wasn’t until recently that he changed his mind.
In an interview on CBC’s As It Happens radio program, he says “But very recently, I came to the conclusion that the kind of digital intelligence we’re developing for things like big chatbots is actually a very different form of intelligence from biological intelligence — and may actually be much better.”
He went so far as to say: “I think that it’s conceivable that this kind of advanced intelligence could just take over from us,” and added: “It would mean the end of people.”
Hinton pointed out that Google has been at the forefront of AI advancements and their historical approach to using these advancements was in-house, to improve upon their own products and services, like search.
What’s different now is that other companies have released publically accessible AI technology to the masses, which has completely changed everything. Programs like ChatGPT and Midjourney are just two examples of AI programs that are accessible to anyone with an Internet Browser.
“I think Google has been extremely responsible so far, and they will continue to be as responsible as they possibly can be,” Hinton said. “But in a competition with Microsoft, it’s not possible to hold back as much as maybe they would like to.”
And as competitors produce and market new AI products for the public, he says Google execs feel a pressure to keep up the pace. And when AI is available to the public, it has access to a much greater wealth of data than ever before.
However, not everyone shares his feelings about a possible dystopian future and many experts in the field of AI have been quick to caution against a fear mongering hypothetical narrative, which they believe will distract from the very real and immediate issues AI now poses.
When asked about how he felt about those who disagree with his bleak outlook, Hinton said: “It’s absolutely possible I’m wrong. We’re in a period of huge uncertainty where we really don’t know what’s going to happen.”
“The scenario we want is that these advanced digital intelligences form a kind of symbiotic relationship with us and make life just much easier — get rid of all the drudge work, make everybody more productive. That would be great, but I don’t think that’s guaranteed.”