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Elon Musk Calls for a Halt on the Development of AI Technology

(Photo: Ruby Littler)

Chat GTP might be every student’s new best friend but tech moguls like Elon Musk and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak are trying to pull the brakes. A petition published by The Future of Life Institute, a global crisis non-profit, last Wednesday calls for a six-month halt on artificial intelligence (AI) development. This is in response to OpenAI, the company behind Chat GTP, and their improved GPT-4 model which supplies more nuanced instructions.

The petition’s stance is that “human-competitive intelligence can pose a profound risk to society and humanity”, with the propensity to create disinformation and make entire workforces redundant. The Future of Life Institute is claiming that AI technologies are unreliable and not adequately regulated. The speed at which this new technology is developing is also a point of concern. The institute proposed that this six month gap would allow for safety protocols to be considered and legislated.

OpenAI spokesperson Hannah Wong says measures have been taken to regulate this technology.

“It’s important to point out that we spent more than six months - after GPT-4 finished training - on the safety and alignment of the model,” Wong said.

Over 1,100 leading technology experts have publicly come out in support of the petition. Other confirmed signatories include Yoshua Bengio, a Turing Awards-winning AI pioneer, and AI researchers by the likes of Stuart Russel and Gary Marcus.

However, the petition has as many advisories as it does supporters. The Future of Life Institute is a non-profit organisation financially backed by Elon Musk, causing a conflict of interest.

Academics from the digital law community have called out the petition as being vague and ill-informed.

“It is also deeply hypocritical for Elon Musk to sign on given how hard Tesla has fought against accountability for the defective AI in its self-driving cars,” says James Grimmelmann, a professor from Cornell University.

OpenAI is not the only tech company with skin in the game, with Google following closely behind, expected to unveil similar applications soon. Google's attempts to develop advanced AI chat technology have reportedly been fast-tracked since OpenAI entered the market. Given OpenAI is a massive repository of accessible information, they have the potential to rival Google's search engine dominance.

The Future of Life Institute has released a statement, addressing the dangers of treating AI’s technological development as a competition.

“AI labs are 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” according to the The Future of Life Institutes statement.

Google invented the BERT* natural language processing (NLP) model that powers OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Google is positioned to dominate the AI market over the coming years once they finalise the technology, being a larger enterprise with more on the line if they faced AI tool-related liability. This could come in the form of violating copyright, lawsuits against market monopolisation, data collection or infringements of privacy.


* bidirectional encoder representations from transformers


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