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Ray Kurzweil On AI Pause: No

by John Koetsier: Google director of engineering, futurist, inventor, and author Ray Kurzweil is not in favor

Ray Kurzweil On AI Pause-awaken of the Future of Life open letter calling for a pause on “giant AI experiments.” And while that might make sense just based on his position as the co-founder of the Singularity Group, an organization founded on the idea that technological innovation is increasingly accelerate towards a fundamentally transformational time known as the “singularity,” he also has some good practical reasons.

It’s vague, impractical, and won’t be adhered to by competitors, Kurzweil says. And, he adds, it would be costly in many fields where AI is helping.

Here is Kurzweil’s statement in full, via a representative of the Singularity Group:

“Regarding the Open Letter to ‘pause’ research on AI ‘more powerful than GPT-4,’ this criterion is too vague to be practical. And the proposal faces a serious coordination problem: those that agree to a pause may fall far behind corporations or nations that disagree. There are tremendous benefits to advancing AI in critical fields such as medicine and health, education, pursuit of renewable energy sources to replace fossil fuels, and scores of other fields. I didn’t sign, because I believe we can address the signers’ safety concerns in a more tailored way that doesn’t compromise these vital lines of research.

I participated in the Asilomar AI Principles Conference in 2017 and was actively involved in the creation of guidelines to create Artificial Intelligence in an ethical manner. So I know that safety is a critical issue. But more nuance is needed if we wish to unlock AI’s profound advantages to health and productivity while avoiding the real perils.”

Those who have signed the open letter advocating an AI research pause include Tesla, SpaceX, and Twitter CEO Elon Musk, who then reportedly also started planning to built a competitor to ChatGPT maker OpenAI. Other signees include Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, former U.S. presidential candidate Andrew Wang, the inventor of Siri, the founder of Stability AI, Rachel Bronson, the president of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and thousands of other technology and business leaders.

In addition, the “godfather of AI,” Geoff Hinton, recently resigned from Google to be freer to express his concerns on AI and has expressed his regrets about his life’s work and concerns about the impacts of AI.

The open letter states the dangers clearly:

“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.”

That said, the AI research Kurzweil said will be harmed in the fields of health, education, and renewable energy are not ones the Future of Life open letter is most worried about. The problem the open letter references is human-competitive intelligence systems represented by large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT.

Ultimately, however, it’s hard to see how we could agree on, create, and enforce any kind of global moratorium on certain aspects of AI development.

Which means we’re likely to careen to whatever future awaits us, having to do the best we can with the tools we have to use any new power and ability for good and to mitigate any harms.

As the Singularity Group says on its About Us page:

“The rate of change is still accelerating, and over the next 30 years, we’ll encounter some of the greatest transitions that any generation has ever had to face. Technological disruption is already affecting every part of our lives…every business, every industry, every society … even what it means to be human.”

John Koetsier: I’m an entrepreneur, founder, and writer. I’ve raised seed and series A funds, built websites and apps, and written a science fiction novel.

After five years of full-time tech journalism (plus founding a research division) at VentureBeat, I started my own consultancy. But since I can’t not write, I became a Forbes contributor.

I write about AI, robotics, smart home, and consumer technology, often basing my columns on my video podcast, TechFirst.

Earlier in my career I managed technical teams, built software for partners like Intel and Disney, and closed 6-figure deals. In 2014 Folio named me to the top 100 of the media industry’s “most innovative entrepreneurs and market shaker-uppers.”

I consult in the adtech and martech spaces, and do small angel investments in tech startups, all of which are disclosed on my personal website under About > Disclosures.

I live in Vancouver, BC, Canada.

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