'The Godfather of A.I.' Leaves Google and Warns of Danger Ahead

‘If I didn’t build it, somebody else would’ve’: The Godfather of A.I. resigns from Google and says he regets pioneering ‘scary’ tech — likening himself to Oppenheimer creating first atomic bomb

  • Geoffrey Hinton, 75, helped to design the systems that became the bedrock of AI
  • But the Turing prize winner now says a part of him regrets making them
  • READ MORE: Meet the workers using ChatGPT for multiple full-time jobs

The ‘Godfather of Artificial Intelligence’ has sensationally resigned from Google and warned the technology could upend life as we know it.

Geoffrey Hinton, 75, is credited with creating the technology that became the bedrock of A.I. systems like ChatGPT and Google Bard.

But the Turing prize winner now says a part of him regrets helping to make the systems, that he fears could prompt the proliferation of misinformation and replace people in the workforce.

He said he had to tell himself excuses like ‘if I didn’t build it, someone else would have’ to prevent himself from being overwhelmed by guilt. 

He drew comparisons with the ‘father of the atomic bomb’ Robert Oppenheimer, who was reportedly distraught by his invention and dedicated the rest of his life to stopping its proliferation.

Geoffrey Hinton, 75, who is credited as the ‘Godfather of Artificial Technology’, said that a part of him now regrets helping to make the systems. He is pictured above speaking at a summit hosted by media company Thomson Reuters in Toronto, Canada, in 2017

There is a great AI divide in Silicon Valley. Brilliant minds are split about the progress of the systems – some say it will improve humanity and others fear the technology will destroy it

Speaking to the New York Times about his resignation, he warned that in the near future A.I. would flood the internet with false photos, videos and texts.

These would be of a standard, he added, where the average person would ‘not be able to know what is true anymore’.

The technology also posed a serious risk to ‘drudge’ work, he said, and could upend the careers of people working as paralegals, personal assistants and translators.

Some workers already say they are using it to cover multiple jobs for them, undertaking tasks such as creating marketing materials and transcribing Zoom meetings so that they do not have to listen. 

Meet the workers using ChatGPT to do their job 

They refer to themselves as ‘overemployed’, because the tool allows them to complete the workload of each role in at least half the time. 

‘Maybe what is going on in these systems, is actually a lot better than what is going on in the [human] brain,’ he said, explaining his fears.

‘The idea that this stuff could actually get smarter than people — a few people believed that.

‘But most people thought it was way off. And I thought it was way off. I thought it was 30 to 50 years or even longer away. 

‘Obviously, I no longer think that.’

Asked about why he had helped develop a technology that was potentially dangerous, he said: ‘I console myself with the normal excuse: If I hadn’t done it, somebody else would have.’

Hinton added that he had previously paraphrased Oppenheimer when posed with this question in the past, saying: ‘When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it.’

Mr Hinton decided to quit Google last month amid the proliferation of AI technologies.

He had a long converation with the chief executive of Google parent company Alphabet, Sundar Pichai, before departing — although it is not clear what was said.

In a broadside to his former employer, he accused Google of not being a ‘proper steward’ for AI technologies.

In the past, the company has kept potentially dangerous technologies under wraps, he said. But it had now thrown caution to the wind as it competes with Microsoft — which added a ChatBot to its search engine, Bing, last month.

Google’s chief scientist, Jeff Dean, said in a statement: ‘We remain committed to a responsible approach to AI. We’re continually learning to understand emerging risks while also innovating boldly.’

Mr Hinton surged to fame in 2012 when at the University of Toronto, Canada, alongside two students, he designed a neural network that could analyze thousands of photos and teach itself to identify common objects such as flowers, dogs and cars.

Google later spent $44million to acquire the company that was started by Hinton based on the technology.

Hinton said that Google had acted as a ‘proper steward’ for the technology, careful not to release something that might cause harm. 

But after Microsoft augmented its search engine Bing with a chatbot, the search engine giant is now racing to deploy the same kind of technology.

The release of AI bots like ChatGPT (stock image) have prompted calls from many circles for the technology to be reviewed because of the risk it poses for humanity

ChatGPT was also released last year, but now has more than a billion people signed up to the chatbot according to the company. It had as many as 100million active monthly users in February.

The surge in popularity led to more than 1,000 technology leaders to sign an open letter calling for a six-month moratorium — prohibition of activity — on the development of new A.I. systems because of the ‘risks’ they pose.

Several days later, 19 current and former leaders of the Association of the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence released their own letter warning of the risks.

Dr Hinton did not sign either of those letters at the time, saying he didn’t want to criticize Google until he had left, although he stands behind their concerns. 

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