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Industry leaders brand AI advances ‘dangerous’

Posted on the 30th March 2023

AI Pause

An unprecedented call has been made to slow the pace of AI development.

More than 1,000 artificial intelligence experts, researchers and backers have called for an immediate pause on the creation of ‘giant’ AIs for at least six months to allow the greater study of their capabilities and dangers.

The demand has been made in an open letter from the Future of Life Institute and signed by major AI players including Elon Musk, who co-founded OpenAI, the research lab responsible for ChatGPT and GPT-4; Emad Mostaque, who founded London-based Stability AI; and Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple.

Additional signatories include academics, such as the cognitive scientist Gary Marcus, and engineers from Amazon, DeepMind, Google, Meta and Microsoft.

The letter calls for a pause on the 'dangerous race' to develop AI, which signatories fear poses a ‘profound risk to society and humanity’ and could have ‘catastrophic’ effects.

The authors believe that humankind doesn’t yet know the full scope of the risk involved in advancing the technology and want all development to cease for at least six months while further risk assessments are undertaken.

The Future of Life Institute is a not-for-profit organization which says its mission is to ’steer transformative technologies away from extreme, large-scale risks and towards benefiting life.’

The letter follows a recent report from investment bank Goldman Sachs which said that, while AI was likely to increase productivity, millions of jobs could become automated.

Europol has expressed concerns over advanced AI like ChatGPT and warned about the potential misuse of the system in phishing attempts, disinformation and cybercrime.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday of this week, the government set out plans to regulate artificial intelligence with new guidelines on responsible use.

However, the white paper has been strongly criticised for failing to address numerous risks and threats.

Related: Could AI improve the organ transplant process?

The Future of Life Institute letter in full

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.

Therefore, we call on all AI labs to immediately pause for at least 6 months the training of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4. This pause should be public and verifiable and include all key actors. If such a pause cannot be enacted quickly, governments should step in and institute a moratorium.

AI labs and independent experts should use this pause to jointly develop and implement a set of shared safety protocols for advanced AI design and development that are rigorously audited and overseen by independent outside experts. These protocols should ensure that systems adhering to them are safe beyond a reasonable doubt.

This does not mean a pause on AI development in general, merely a stepping back from the dangerous race to ever-larger unpredictable black-box models with emergent capabilities.

AI research and development should be refocused on making today's powerful, state-of-the-art systems more accurate, safe, interpretable, transparent, robust, aligned, trustworthy, and loyal.

In parallel, AI developers must work with policymakers to dramatically accelerate development of robust AI governance systems.

These should at a minimum include: new and capable regulatory authorities dedicated to AI; oversight and tracking of highly capable AI systems and large pools of computational capability; provenance and watermarking systems to help distinguish real from synthetic and to track model leaks; a robust auditing and certification ecosystem; liability for AI-caused harm; robust public funding for technical AI safety research; and well-resourced institutions for coping with the dramatic economic and political disruptions (especially to democracy) that AI will cause.

Humanity can enjoy a flourishing future with AI. Having succeeded in creating powerful AI systems, we can now enjoy an "AI summer" in which we reap the rewards, engineer these systems for the clear benefit of all, and give society a chance to adapt.

Society has hit pause on other technologies with potentially catastrophic effects on society.

We can do so here. Let's enjoy a long AI summer, not rush unprepared into a fall.

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