Tech mogul Elon Musk, as well as a number of his contemporaries in the tech and AI worlds, published an open letter today calling for artificial intelligence labs to slow the pace of development of AI systems, claiming that the rapid pace of progress creates “profound risks” to the world as we know it.
The open letter was issued by the Future of Life Institute, a global non-profit that states its mission as “Steering transformative technology towards benefitting life and away from extreme large-scale risks.” The open letter called for an immediate halt in the training of systems for at least six months.
The list of signatories to the letter reads like a who’s who of technologists and machine learning experts. Such an assemblage only highlights the degree of concern rapidly emerging in the tech world as wave after wave of layoffs continues to sweep across the global economy. While no one wants to admit yet that these layoffs are driven in large part by organizations realizing how they can leverage new AI tools to drive down headcount, that realization is coming.
The content itself is sobering to read as we reckon with the reality that it is now eminently possible to replace human workers in almost every digital domain.
“AI systems with human-competitive intelligence can pose profound risks to society and humanity, as shown by extensive research and acknowledged by top AI labs. As stated in the widely-endorsed Asilomar AI Principles, Advanced AI could represent a profound change in the history of life on Earth, and should be planned for and managed with commensurate care and resources. Unfortunately, this level of planning and management is not happening, even though recent months have seen AI labs locked in an out-of-control race to develop and deploy ever more powerful digital minds that no one – not even their creators – can understand, predict, or reliably control.
Contemporary AI systems are now becoming human-competitive at general tasks, and we must ask ourselves: Should we let machines flood our information channels with propaganda and untruth? Should we automate away all the jobs, including the fulfilling ones? Should we develop nonhuman minds that might eventually outnumber, outsmart, obsolete and replace us? Should we risk loss of control of our civilization? Such decisions must not be delegated to unelected tech leaders. Powerful AI systems should be developed only once we are confident that their effects will be positive and their risks will be manageable. This confidence must be well justified and increase with the magnitude of a system’s potential effects. OpenAI’s recent statement regarding artificial general intelligence, states that “At some point, it may be important to get independent review before starting to train future systems, and for the most advanced efforts to agree to limit the rate of growth of compute used for creating new models.” We agree. That point is now.”
When top-level white-collar workers like those who’ve signed this appeal are concerned for the safety and well-being of their own lines of work, we know that no career is truly safe from this new form of competition.
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