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May 3, 2023

As he quits Google, AI's "godfather" Geoffrey Hinton warns of dangers

British-Canadian cognitive psychologist warns what could happen if AI is used wrongly

The man seen by many as the godfather of AI has quit his role and warned of the growing dangers of developments in the field. Geoffrey Hinton announced the resignation from Google in a statement to the New York Times, saying he now regrets the input he had. He told the BBC some AI chatbots are "more intelligent than us."

Dr Hinton also accepted that his age had played into his decision to leave the tech giant, telling the BBC: "I'm 75, so it's time to retire." Dr Hinton's pioneering research on neural networks and deep learning has paved the way for current AI systems like ChatGPT.

“In artificial intelligence, neural networks are systems that are similar to the human brain in the way they learn and process information. They enable AIs to learn from experience, as a person would. This is called deep learning” - comments Dr Geoffrey Hinton.

The British-Canadian cognitive psychologist and computer scientist told the BBC the chatbot could soon overtake the level of information that a human brain holds.

"Right now, what we're seeing is things like GPT-4 eclipses a person in the amount of general knowledge it has and it eclipses them by a long way. In terms of reasoning, it's not as good, but it does already do simple reasoning," - says Dr Geoffrey Hinton.

He also says “given the rate of progress, we expect things to get better quite fast. So we need to worry about that." In the New York Times article, Dr Hinton talked about "bad actors" who could end up using AI for "bad things". Then adding, "This is a worst-case scenario, a nightmare scenario".

"You can imagine, for example, some bad actor like Putin deciding to give robots the ability to create their own sub-goals." The scientist warned that this eventually might "create sub-goals like 'I need to get more power'".

He added: "I've come to the conclusion that the kind of intelligence we're developing is very different from the intelligence we have. We're biological systems and these are digital systems. And the big difference is that with digital systems, you have many copies of the same set of weights, the same model of the world. And all these copies can learn separately but share their knowledge instantly. So it's as if you had 10,000 people and whenever one person learnt something, everybody automatically knew it. And that's how these chatbots can know so much more than any one person."

Matt Clifford, the chairman of the UK's Advanced Research and Invention Agency, speaking in a personal capacity, told the BBC that Dr Hinton's announcement "underlines the rate at which AI capabilities are accelerating". He said "There's an enormous upside from this technology, but it's essential that the world invests heavily and urgently in AI safety and control." Dr Hinton stressed that he did not want to criticize Google and that the tech giant had been responsible. "I actually want to say some good things about Google. And they're more credible if I don't work for Google."

In a statement, Google's chief scientist Jeff Dean said: "We remain committed to a responsible approach to AI. We're continually learning to understand emerging risks while also innovating boldly."

Neil Hodgson Coyle
Neil Hodgson-Coyle
Editorial chief at TechNews180
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