Geoffrey Hinton, a pioneer in the field of AI and widely regarded as the Godfather of AI, has recently left his position at Google to raise awareness about the potential dangers of the technology he helped to develop. Hinton’s pioneering work on neural networks has been instrumental in shaping many of the AI systems currently in use. He had been working part-time at Google for a decade, but has recently developed concerns about the technology and his role in advancing it.
In an interview with the New York Times, Hinton stated that he left Google to speak freely about the risks associated with AI, rather than to criticize Google specifically. He tweeted that he left in order to discuss the dangers of AI without considering how this might impact Google, adding that he believes Google has acted responsibly.
Google’s chief scientist, Jeff Dean, expressed appreciation for Hinton’s contributions over the past decade and reiterated the company’s commitment to a responsible approach to AI. However, Hinton’s decision to step back from the company and speak out on the technology comes as concerns are growing about the potential for AI-powered chatbots to spread misinformation and displace jobs.
This increased attention on the topic has led to an arms race among tech companies to develop and deploy similar AI tools in their products. OpenAI, Microsoft, and Google are at the forefront of this trend, but IBM, Amazon, Baidu, and Tencent are also working on similar technologies.
In March, some prominent figures in tech signed a letter calling for artificial intelligence labs to stop training the most powerful AI systems for at least six months, citing profound risks to society and humanity. This came just two weeks after OpenAI announced GPT-4, an even more powerful version of the technology that powers ChatGPT.
In an interview with the Times, Hinton echoed concerns about AI’s potential to eliminate jobs and create a world where many will not be able to know what is true anymore. He also pointed to the stunning pace of advancement, far beyond what he and others had anticipated.
Hinton is not the first Google employee to raise concerns about AI. In July, the company fired an engineer who claimed an unreleased AI system had become sentient, saying he violated employment and data security policies. Many in the AI community pushed back strongly on the engineer’s assertion.