The Morning After: Industry leaders say AI presents 'risk of extinction' on par with nuclear war

And that it needs to be a ‘global priority.’

NurPhoto via Getty Images

With the rise of AI language models and tools like ChatGPT and Bard, we've heard warnings from people involved, like Elon Musk, about the risks posed by AI. Now, a group of high-profile industry leaders has issued a one-sentence statement: “Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war.”

That’s… heavy. It was posted to the Center for AI Safety, an organization with the mission "to reduce societal-scale risks from artificial intelligence," according to its website. Signatories include OpenAI chief executive Sam Altman and Google DeepMind head Demis Hassabis. Turing Award-winning researchers Geoffrey Hinton and Yoshua Bengio, the godfathers of modern AI, also put their names to it. Hinton recently left Google over ethical concerns.

It’s not the first statement like this. In March, Elon Musk, Steve Wozniak and more than 1,000 others called for a six-month pause on AI to allow industry and the public to effectively catch up to the technology. "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," the letter stated. No specific scenarios elaborate on how AI could threaten humanity, but there’s been more than enough science fiction to make me think of worst cases. Thanks, The Matrix.

– Mat Smith

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