Why AI pioneer has quit Google, makes apocalyptic forecasts

After a decade of work with neural networks, the artificial intelligence’s godfather is scared of the work he’s done.

Geoffrey Hinton, a pioneer in the field of artificial intelligence and the recognized "godfather” of AI, has quit his job at Google/Alphabet, where he had worked with the neural networks for more than ten years. 

In an interview with The New York Times, the British-Canadian computer scientist explained that the technology has he was developing has become too dangerous as it is capable to wipe out the entire human species. “A part of me regrets my life’s work,” he said, suggesting that he was scared of what he’s done. 

"I console myself with the normal excuse: If I hadn't done it, somebody else would have […] It is hard to see how you can prevent the bad actors from using it for bad things," he stated.

Hilton considered Google a "proper steward" of AI until last year. Things turned to worse when Microsoft released its Bing AI search engine powered by GPT-4, following suit after OpenAI, and Google – for fear to lose its market dominance – released Bard and speeded the development of an AI integrated search engine.

The competition between IT giants led to dramatic improvements of AI, which is smarter than any living human day by day and poses an immediate threat to humankind, given its tremendous power to alter reality, according to Hilton.

This heating up AI arms race will lead to an internet so flooded by fake images and text that no one will be able to know what is true anymore, he stressed. And if the regretful scientist earlier thought we are 30-50 years from witnessing the rise of super AI, he now thinks that future is already here.

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Last year, another scientist at Google warned that AI was gaining sentience and deliberately manipulated its interlocutors. Engineer and AI ethicist Blake Lemoine claimed that LaMDA, Google's powerful large language model (LLM), had come to life. He raised the alarm bells internally after long hours of testing and “interviewing” the software, but the company disagreed over his findings. When Lemoine talked to journalist on this issue, Google fired him. 

Last March, thousands of researchers, scientists, business people, politicians and professionals signed an open letter calling for a moratorium on developing anything more advanced that existing AI. Elon Musk, a founder of OpenAI, is among the signatories. 

MIT professor and AI researcher Max Tegmark recently compared the neglection of AI’s potential with the existential risk posed by the comet in the fictional movie “Don’t look up”.