In an open letter (see below) published by the non-profit Future of Life Institute, Musk and others raised alarm over the profound risks that advanced AI poses to society and humanity.
The letter says AI labs are locked in an “out-of-control race” to develop and deploy systems that no one can understand, predict, or reliably control.
In it, the signatories call for a public—and verifiable—pause on AI development for at least six months, as well as the development of safety protocols for advanced AI design and development.
What does the letter mean for your usage of AI in your business and career?
I spoke with Marketing AI Institute founder/CEO Paul Roetzer on Episode 41 of the Marketing AI Show to answer that question.
- Don’t expect a ban to actually happen. “It’s not going to happen,” says Roetzer. It’s not practical or possible to enact or enforce a ban like the one described in the letter. The letter partially reads like a PR stunt. However, that’s not all it is.
- But don’t ignore the letter. Plenty of credible people signed the letter. Many people (Paul included) signed it while fully acknowledging they don’t agree with all of it. That’s because the letter raises issues we can no longer ignore.
- AI is going to have a massive near-term impact we’re not ready for. Today, we’re not prepared for AI’s impact on misinformation, propaganda, especially headed into an election season in the United States. “The ability to tell what’s real and what’s not is almost gone,” says Roetzer.
- That includes a big impact on employment. People aren’t talking enough about potential job loss caused by advanced AI. “I think there’s going to be a lot of pain,” says Roetzer. “AI is coming for knowledge work way faster than anybody is ready for.”
- Long story short, we need to have the conversation now. All of these factors make it critical that we take the conversation about AI risks mainstream, and the letter helps do that. “What’s going to be essential is that we have a lot of really smart people thinking about these issues, thinking about the impact they have in their region, in their country, in their industry, and starting to figure out how to move forward,” says Roetzer.
- Because it’s up to us to figure this out. UNESCO just urged governments to adopt its ethical AI framework. Italy just banned ChatGPT. AI is quickly becoming a political flashpoint. On one hand, that may bring sensible regulations and guardrails. On the other, it may also mean politicians with no understanding of the technology jump on the bandwagon of enacting unhelpful or destructive AI policies. The better companies and business leaders understand the issues at hand, the better they’ll be able to understand what’s sensible discourse and what’s not.
Pause Giant AI Experiments: An Open Letter
We call on all AI labs to immediately pause for at least 6 months the training of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4.
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.
Contemporary AI systems are now becoming human-competitive at general tasks, and we must ask ourselves: 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? Such decisions must not be delegated to unelected tech leaders. Powerful AI systems should be developed only once we are confident that their effects will be positive and their risks will be manageable. This confidence must be well justified and increase with the magnitude of a system’s potential effects. OpenAI’s recent statement regarding artificial general intelligence, states that “At some point, it may be important to get independent review before starting to train future systems, and for the most advanced efforts to agree to limit the rate of growth of compute used for creating new models.” We agree. That point is now.
Therefore, we call on all AI labs to immediately pause for at least 6 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.
AI labs and independent experts should use this pause to jointly develop and implement a set of shared safety protocols for advanced AI design and development that are rigorously audited and overseen by independent outside experts. These protocols should ensure that systems adhering to them are safe beyond a reasonable doubt. This does not mean a pause on AI development in general, merely a stepping back from the dangerous race to ever-larger unpredictable black-box models with emergent capabilities.
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.
In parallel, AI developers must work with policymakers to dramatically accelerate development of robust AI governance systems. These should at a minimum include: new and capable regulatory authorities dedicated to AI; oversight and tracking of highly capable AI systems and large pools of computational capability; provenance and watermarking systems to help distinguish real from synthetic and to track model leaks; a robust auditing and certification ecosystem; liability for AI-caused harm; robust public funding for technical AI safety research; and well-resourced institutions for coping with the dramatic economic and political disruptions (especially to democracy) that AI will cause.
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. Society has hit pause on other technologies with potentially catastrophic effects on society.
We can do so here. Let’s enjoy a long AI summer, not rush unprepared into a fall.