Open Letter Demands AI Labs Pause Sophisticated Work

And if they can't, governments should institute a moratorium, tech bigwigs say
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 29, 2023 11:36 AM CDT
Open Letter Demands AI Labs Pause Sophisticated Work
Text from the ChatGPT page of the OpenAI website is shown in this photo, in New York, Feb. 2, 2023.   (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

If you've wondered what tech bigwigs like Elon Musk and Steve Wozniak think about the rapidly changing AI landscape, wonder no more: They want the brakes applied. An open letter signed by hundreds of tech luminaries calls on the world's top AI labs to pause all training of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4 (which OpenAI released to the public just two weeks ago) for the next six months. Should such a "public and verifiable" pause not happen quickly, signees want to see governments step in and dictate a moratorium. TechCrunch pored over the signatures and found some gaps: There are none from OpenAI employees or from the Anthropic team, which split off of OpenAI with the aim of creating a "safer" AI chatbot. Standout lines:

  • "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."
  • "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."

  • "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? ... Powerful AI systems should be developed only once we are confident that their effects will be positive and their risks will be manageable."
  • "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."

  • "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."
  • TechCrunch flags one critical response: "Oh, this is absolutely f---ing ludicrous and laughable, a prime specimen of #MoralPanic if I've ever seen one: A call to pause training AI. Gutenberg: Stop your presses! Signed by so many usual-suspect moral entrepeneurs [sic] & attention addicts."
  • Here's another: "I’ll not sign, because if the good guys stop developing AI, then only the bad guys will develop AI. 'If such a pause cannot be enacted quickly, governments should step in and institute a moratorium.' - Do you really think China would follow?"
  • The letter was published by the non-profit Future of Life, and it offer this example in its tweeted thread on why it's calling for the pause: "You can use an AI model meant to discover new drugs to create pathogens instead. This model will promptly generate over 40k pathogens - including VX, the deadliest nerve agent ever - in roughly six hours."
(More artificial intelligence stories.)

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