Artificial intelligence experts and industry leaders, including Elon Musk, University of California Berkeley computer science professor Stuart Russell and Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Wozniak, are calling on developers to hit the pause button on training powerful AI models.
More than 1,100 people in the industry signed a petition calling for a six-month break from training artificial intelligence systems more powerful than the latest iteration behind OpenAI’s ChatGPT, in order to allow for the development of shared safety protocols.
“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,” said an open letter published on the Future of Life Institute website. “Powerful AI systems should be developed only once we are confident that their effects will be positive and their risks will be manageable.”
The call comes after the launch of a series of AI projects in the last several months that convincingly perform human tasks such as writing emails and creating art. Microsoft Corp.-backed OpenAI released its GPT-4 this month, a major upgrade of its AI-powered chatbot, capable of telling jokes and passing tests like the bar exam.
It also highlights ongoing tensions between Musk and OpenAI. The nonprofit research lab was founded in 2015 with Musk as co-chair along with Sam Altman, who is also OpenAI’s chief executive officer. At the time, OpenAI’s goal was to “advance digital intelligence in the way that is most likely to benefit humanity as a whole, unconstrained by a need to generate financial return.”
Musk, who runs multiple companies including Tesla Inc., left OpenAI’s board in 2018. He has criticized the organization, which created a for-profit arm in 2019, saying it has become a “closed source, maximum-profit company effectively controlled by Microsoft,” and that it has “strayed very far from the path of virtue.” Musk has also been looking into creating a rival research lab, according to The Information. Meanwhile, in a recent podcast with tech journalist Kara Swisher, Altman said Musk is a “jerk” while noting he believes Musk is “feeling very stressed about what the future’s going to look like for humanity.”
Altman — whose name appeared on the list of signatories Tuesday night — didn’t sign the petition, said OpenAI spokesperson Hannah Wong. “Also I think it’s important to point out that we spent more than six months — after GPT-4 finished training — on the safety and alignment of the model,” Wong said.
Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Microsoft are among the companies using artificial intelligence to enhance their search engines, while Morgan Stanley has been using GPT-4 to create a chatbot for its wealth advisers.
Developers should work with policymakers to create new AI governance systems and oversight bodies, according to the letter. It called on governments to intervene in the development of AI systems if major players don’t imminently agree to a public, verifiable pause.
“AI research and development should be refocused on making today’s powerful, state-of-the-art systems more accurate, safe, interpretable, transparent, robust, aligned, trustworthy and loyal,” it said.
Yoshua Bengio, the founder and scientific director of Canadian AI research institute Mila, signed the petition, according to a statement from the institute. Emad Mostaque, founder and CEO of Stability AI, also said he signed it.
“We have seen the amazing capabilities of GPT-4 and other massive models. Those making these have themselves said they could be an existential threat to society and even humanity, with no plan to totally mitigate these risks,” Mostaque said. “It is time to put commercial priorities to the side and take a pause for the good of everyone to assess rather than race to an uncertain future.”
The Future of Life Institute is a nonprofit that seeks to mitigate risks associated with powerful technologies and counts the Musk Foundation as its biggest contributor.
“All of the top signatories on the list have been independently verified,” said Anthony Aguirre, a spokesperson for the institute. “Doing so for the whole list exceeds our capacity.”
A spokesperson for the Center for Humane Technology, whose executive director, Tristan Harris, signed the letter, said steps are being taken to prevent fake signatures. New signatories are now requiring human review before going up on the site, and all high-profile signatories listed have been vetted by direct communication, the spokesperson said in an email.
–With assistance from Ed Ludlow, Dina Bass, Mark Bergen and Dana Hull.
Bloomberg photo of Elon Musk