Elon Musk says we need a break

Elon Musk says we need a break


Plenty of people are worried about the development of advanced artificial intelligence (AI). Some have concerns about the impact on society if AI can compete with human-level intelligence. Others are concerned about the impact on the labor market.

Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk is the one person you don’t expect to call for a pause in the development of advanced AI. But Musk — along with countless other tech leaders, including Apple Inc. Co-Founder Steve Wozniak — recently signed an open letter from the Future of Life Institute titled Pause Giant AI Experiments: An Open Letter.

The Future of Life Institute is a nonprofit organization that campaigns for the responsible and ethical development of AI. While the entire letter is worth reading, here’s the most important passage:

“We call on all AI labs to immediately pause for at least six months the training of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4. This pause should be public and verifiable and include all key actors. If such a pause cannot be enacted quickly, governments should step in and institute a moratorium.”

What Prompted This Call To Action?

The days when AI was nothing more than a dream are in the past. The future is now, and there’s no better reminder of that than the viral growth of AI chatbot ChatGPT.

As of January — only two months into its public launch — ChatGPT had grown to more than 100 million monthly active users. If that sounds massive, it’s because it is. It’s the fastest-growing consumer application ever.

The technology is incredibly advanced having the ability to code, write in dozens of different tones, seemingly endless knowledge and more. While Alphabet Inc and Microsoft Corp publicly fight for search engine dominance, many of the biggest companies in the world are using AI and rolling out suites of products. Some AI programs can seemingly already understand emotion, which is being used by some of the largest companies in the world for their marketing campaigns.

While ChatGPTs viral growth makes for a good news story, it’s not neccesarily why people like Musk are concerned. That’s rooted in the fact that the technology is trained on large amounts of data and has proven useful for everything from creating marketing copy to writing screenplays and books.

But What’s Wrong With That?

Average ChatGPT users see nothing wrong with the application. All they know is that it makes their lives easier. But AI ethicists have serious concerns about abusing this form of technology, such as by spreading misinformation or plagiarizing in academic settings.

“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,” the letter states.

Even though Musk co-founded OpenAI in 2015, he has made his concerns about the direction AI technology is heading clear. He’s no longer associated with the company, having vacated his board position in 2018.

This isn’t the first time Musk has associated himself with the Future of Life Institute. Previously, the organization received his promise to never develop lethal autonomous weapons systems.

Despite calling for a cool-down period, the Future of Life Institute understands that AI is the wave of the future.

“Humanity can enjoy a flourishing future with AI. Having succeeded in creating powerful AI systems, we can now enjoy an ‘AI summer’ in which we reap the rewards, engineer these systems for the clear benefit of all and give society a chance to adapt.”

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