Tackling AI risks on par with pandemics and nuclear war, say industry leaders

Tackling AI risks

A coalition of industry leaders and experts issued a statement emphasizing the urgent need for global action to mitigate the risks associated with artificial intelligence (AI) technology. The concise statement, signed by 300 specialists, including Sam Altman of OpenAI, highlighted that addressing the perils of AI should be given the same level of importance as other societal-scale risks like pandemics and nuclear warfare.

The prominence of OpenAI’s ChatGPT bot, which garnered attention for its ability to generate essays, poems, and conversations, triggered substantial investment in the field. Nevertheless, concerns have arisen from critics and industry insiders regarding potential issues. These concerns include the possible spread of disinformation by chatbots, the production of biased and racist content by algorithms, and the detrimental impact of AI-powered automation on various industries.

The recent statement, hosted on the non-profit organization Center for AI Safety website, did not provide specific details regarding the existential threat posed by AI. Instead, it aimed to initiate a dialogue on the dangers associated with this technology. Several signatories, including Geoffrey Hinton, a key figure in AI development, have previously expressed similar warnings.

“Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war,” read the statement on the Center for AI Safety’s website.

Humans may lose control over superintelligent machines

A significant apprehension expressed by these experts is the emergence of artificial general intelligence (AGI), which refers to machines capable of performing diverse functions and developing their programming. The concern is that humans may lose control over superintelligent machines, leading to catastrophic consequences for humanity and the planet.

The statement was endorsed by numerous academics and specialists from prominent companies in the AI field, including Google and Microsoft. This comes after Tesla CEO Elon Musk and hundreds of others issued an open letter two months ago, calling for a halt in the development of AGI until its safety could be demonstrated. However, Musk’s letter received criticism for its alarmist tone and alleged exaggeration of the societal collapse that AI could potentially cause.

Black box problem

Critics, such as US academic Emily Bender, have accused AI companies of failing to disclose their data sources and the processes by which the data is utilized, often called the “black box” problem. They argue that algorithms could be trained on biased or discriminatory material, raising concerns about the fairness and equity of AI systems.

While Altman, currently engaged in a global tour to shape discussions on AI, acknowledged the global threats associated with the technology developed by his company, he defended their decision not to disclose source data. Instead, Altman argued that critics were primarily interested in determining whether the models exhibited bias and emphasized that the latest model demonstrated a surprisingly low level of discrimination.


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