Thu | Mar 30, 2023 | 4:26 AM PDT

We've all seen a movie or TV show where, in the future, our technologies have become so advanced that machines and Artificial Intelligence begin to take over the world. In many cases, albeit fictional, the machines prosper over humanity thanks to the ever-expanding capabilities of AI. A movie like Ex Machina or a show like Westworld play out this scenario very realistically, which is a bit frightening considering the trends we have seen recently in AI.

Because of these developments, which have sparked serious concerns, technology leaders from around the world have signed an open letter calling for a pause on the development and testing of AI technologies, including OpenAI's ChatGPT and others that are even more powerful.

The signatories argue that care and forethought are necessary to ensure the safety of AI systems, which are currently being ignored. The letter calls for a minimum six-month pause on producing new AI technology beyond GPT-4. 

The letter opens with this:

"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."

It continues on to ask incredibly challenging questions related to the development of AI:

"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?"

These are questions that all of humanity will have to grapple with over the coming years.

But is pausing the development of AI really the right answer at a time like this? Andrew Barratt, Vice President at Coalfire, offers an interesting perspective:

"Anything we do to stop things in the AI space is probably just noise. It's also impossible to do this globally in a coordinated fashion. AI will be the productivity enabler of the next couple of generations. The danger will be watching it replace search engines and then become monetized by advertisers who 'intelligently' place their products in to the answers.

What is interesting is that the 'spike' in fear seems to be triggered since the recent amount of attention applied to ChatGPT. Rather than take a pause, really we should be encouraging knowledge workers around the world to look at how they can best use the various AI tools that are becoming more and more consumer friendly to help provide productivity. Those that don't will be left behind."

The petition was organized by the nonprofit Future of Life Institute, which says confirmed signatories include Steve Wozniak and Elon Musk, two of the most prominent tech leaders in the world. The list also includes Turing Award-winning AI pioneer Yoshua Bengio and other leading AI researchers such as Stuart Russell and Gary Marcus.

Others who joined include former U.S. presidential candidate Andrew Yang and Rachel Bronson, who is the president of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a science-oriented advocacy group known for its warnings against humanity-ending nuclear war.

All signatories argue that AI development needs to be approached with caution and that we need to take steps to mitigate the risks associated with these powerful technologies.

While AI has the potential to revolutionize many aspects of our lives, it also poses significant risks if not developed and deployed responsibly. As such, it is important that we take a step back and consider the implications of these technologies before moving forward with their development.

For more information, read Pause Giant AI Experiments: An Open Letter. You can even sign the petition yourself if you choose.

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