Andrew Ng, a world leader in the development of artificial intelligence, said in an interview this week that he believes current talk about AI being an existential threat to humankind is vastly exaggerated.
Ng, currently a professor at Stanford University, co-founded Google Brain and went on to be chief scientist at Baidu Inc.’s Artificial Intelligence Group, not to mention co-founder of DeepLearning.AI and Coursera. During his time at Stanford, Ng taught machine learning to OpenAI LP’s co-founder Sam Altman. These two men now have very different outlooks on what kind of danger AI poses to human existence.
In May this year, Altman signed a letter along with another 375 computer scientists, academics, and business leaders that discussed what should be a first principle of “mitigating the risk of extinction from AI.” Altman’s concerns mirror some other leaders in the AI industry, who also signed the letter.
Speaking with The Australian Financial Review, Ng said there is a kind of doom myth that has been promulgated in the tech industry around the conviction that we humans are meddling with a powerful tool that could end civilization. He called this a “bad idea” that could “impose burdensome licensing requirements.”
“When you put those two bad ideas together, you get the massively, colossally dumb idea of policy proposals that try to require licensing of AI,” he explained. “It would crush innovation. There are definitely large tech companies that would rather not have to try to compete with open source [AI], so they’re creating fear of AI leading to human extinction.” He says he’s all for “thoughtful regulation,” but not regulation that stunts development.
In this regard, he agrees with the venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, one of the more outspoken proponents of the gift that AI could be to society. A person who certainly doesn’t agree with Ng is tech billionaire Elon Musk, who in the past has whipped up storms with his doomsday comments relating to AI. Today, Musk commented on Ng’s recent comments, stating, “Giant supercomputer clusters that cost billions of dollars are the risk, not some startup in a garage.”
The so-called Godfather of AI, Geoffrey Hinton, also weighed in. “Andrew Ng is claiming that the idea that AI could make us extinct is a big-tech conspiracy,” he tweeted. “A data point that does not fit this conspiracy theory is that I left Google so that I could speak freely about the existential threat.”
Photo: Julien Tromeur/Unsplash
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