Godfather of AI says warnings that it’s a threat to humanity are “ridiculous,” job losses won’t be permanent

2023 06 15 image 8.jpg
2023 06 15 image 8.jpg

Why it matters: There has been plenty of warnings this year about the new wave of advanced and generative AIs taking millions of jobs and potentially wiping our humanity. But not everyone believes this is true. One of the three “Godfathers of AI” says the alleged threat to humanity is “preposterously ridiculous.”

Prof Yann LeCun won the Turing Award for breakthroughs in AI in 2018 along with Geoffrey Hinton and Yoshua Bengio. The three men are known as the Godfathers of AI, and for good reason.

It was only a few weeks ago when Hinton left his job at Google with a warning that as companies take advantage of more powerful AI systems, they’re becoming increasingly dangerous. Like many, he is concerned about the short-term implications of the internet being flooded with fake information, which the AI companies could be held liable for if a new bill passes, while the long-term concerns are mass job losses and AI overtaking humans in other areas.

LeCun, who is now Meta’s chief AI scientist, is much more optimistic about where AI is heading. “Will AI take over the world? No, this is a projection of human nature on machines” he said (via the BBC), adding that keeping AI research “under lock and key” would be a huge mistake.

“It’s as if you asked in 1930 to someone how are you going to make a turbo-jet safe. Turbo-jets were not invented yet in 1930, same as human level AI has not been invented yet,” LeCun said. “Turbo jets were eventually made incredibly reliable and safe.”

The professor explained that progressive advances could lead to an AI as powerful as the brain of a rat, but it wasn’t going to take over the world as it’s still going to run on a data center with an off switch. He added that “if you realize it’s not safe you just don’t build it.”

Last month saw experts and CEOs, including OpenAI boss Sam Altman, warn about the possibility of AI causing the extinction of the human race. The experts went so far as to compare AI to the risks posed by nuclear war and pandemics. Over two-thirds of Americans are worried about it threatening civilization, and Warren Buffett compared AI’s creation to the atomic bomb.

A report earlier this year claimed that generative AIs like ChatGPT could affect 300 million full-time jobs, while companies including IBM have already stopped hiring for positions that could be filled by these systems.

LeCun told the BBC that AIs were not going to put a lot of people out of work permanently, but did note that work could change as we don’t know what the most prominent jobs will be in 20 years.

The Godfather said there was no question that computers would become more intelligent than humans in the future, but that day could be many years if not decades away. Underlining his faith in machines, he said intelligent computers would create “a new renaissance for humanity” in the same way as the internet or printing press.

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