AI Pioneer Geoffrey Hinton Resigns from Google Over Concerns About Technology’s Potential Risks
Geoffrey Hinton, a pioneering computer scientist in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), has resigned from his position at Google over concerns about the technology's potential risks. Hinton, who helped create some of the fundamental technology behind today's generative AI systems, fears that the tech industry's drive to develop AI products could result in dangerous consequences, from misinformation to job loss or even a threat to humanity. In an interview with The New York Times, he said, “It’s hard to see how you can prevent the bad actors from using it for bad things. Observe the contrast between the state of AI technology five years ago and its current state. Forward-propagate the difference. That’s scary.” Hinton, who is sometimes referred to as the “godfather” of AI, has been involved in the world of AI since the ’70s, when he was one of the earliest adopters of a “neural network,” a mathematical system that learns skills by analyzing data.
Hinton has spent decades developing novel AI algorithms and architectures, creating techniques to train models and process data. The current machine learning boom owes its existence to his pioneering research. In 2012, Hinton and two of his students created a neural network that could teach itself how to identify objects like cats, dogs, and flowers after being digitally fed thousands of photos. For $44 million USD, Google purchased the company founded by Dr. Hinton and his two students. In 2018, Hinton and two other scientists were awarded the Turing Award, known as the “Nobel Prize of Computing,” for their neural network advancements. The development of these new ideas resulted in the emergence of AI entities such as ChatGPT and Google Bard.
Hinton is primarily worried about the proliferation of false information, which inundates individuals with fabricated images, videos, and written content, rendering it difficult to discern what is genuinely accurate. New tools that create deepfakes, or computer-generated clones of a famous person's voice and appearance, make it easy for anyone with a computer and internet connection to misrepresent public figures. According to Hinton, access to AI text- and image-generation tools could lead to even more fraudulent content being created, and the average person would “not be able to know what is true anymore.”
Hinton also raised concerns about the pace of advancement in AI, far beyond what he and others had anticipated. He believes that future AI systems could threaten humanity as they learn unexpected behavior from vast amounts of data. “The idea that this stuff could actually get smarter than people—a few people believed that,” he told The New York Times. The majority of individuals believed that it was far from accurate. I believed it was significantly inaccurate. In my opinion, it was at least three or more decades, or possibly even longer, before it would occur. It is clear that my perspective has changed.
Hinton's resignation from Google allows him to speak more openly about the potential dangers of AI. He did not sign letters issued by other tech luminaries calling for a six-month pause on advanced AI development, but he did say that he did not want to publicly criticize Google or other companies until he had quit his job. He notified the company last month that he was resigning, and on Thursday, he talked by phone with Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google’s parent company, Alphabet. He refused to disclose the specifics of his discussion with Pichai in a public setting.
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.” Hinton tweeted that he thinks “Google has acted very responsibly.”
Hinton's concerns about AI's potential risks echo those of other tech luminaries, including Elon Musk, who has been sounding the alarm about the potential dangers of AI for years. An open letter was signed by Musk advocating for a six-month pause on the development of advanced AI. In a tweet earlier today, he warned that “even benign dependency on AI/Automation is dangerous to civilization.”
As one of the pioneers of AI, Hinton's departure from Google and his warning about the technology's risks should not be taken lightly. It highlights the need for a responsible approach to AI development and the importance of considering the potential consequences of AI's rapid advancement.
0. “‘Godfather of AI’ quits Google with regrets and fears about his life’s work” The Verge, 1 May. 2023, https://www.theverge.com/2023/5/1/23706311/hinton-godfather-of-ai-threats-fears-warnings
1. “”Godfather of AI” Quits Position at Google” HYPEBEAST, 1 May. 2023, https://hypebeast.com/2023/5/geoffrey-hinton-godfather-of-ai-quit-google
2. “Google's ‘godfather of AI' quits to spread word about dangers of AI, warns it will lead to ‘bad things'” Fox Business, 1 May. 2023, https://www.foxbusiness.com/technology/googles-godfather-ai-quits-spread-word-dangers-ai-warns-will-lead-bad-things
3. “Top Google boffin Hinton quits, warns of AI danger, partly regrets life's work” The Register, 1 May. 2023, https://www.theregister.com/2023/05/01/ai_geoffrey_hinton_resigns/
4. “‘Godfather of AI' Leaves Google to Voice Concern About Artificial Intelligence” PCMag, 1 May. 2023, https://www.pcmag.com/news/godfather-of-ai-leaves-google-to-voice-concern-about-artificial-intelligence
5. “Why Alphabet Stock Was a Flop Today” The Motley Fool, 2 May. 2023, https://www.fool.com/investing/2023/05/02/why-alphabet-stock-was-a-flop-today/
6. “AI pioneer quits Google to warn about the technology's ‘dangers'” KETV Omaha, 2 May. 2023, https://www.ketv.com/article/ai-pioneer-quits-google-to-warn-about-dangers/43754875
7. “‘The godfather of AI’ Leaves Google and warns of danger ahead” The Indian Express, 1 May. 2023, https://indianexpress.com/article/technology/artificial-intelligence/the-godfather-of-ai-leaves-google-and-warns-of-danger-ahead-8585819/
8. “‘Godfather of AI’ quits Google to speak more freely on concerns” Digital Trends, 2 May. 2023, https://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/godfather-of-ai-quits-google-to-speak-more-freely-on-tech/
9. “Musk backs up ‘Godfather of AI' who quit Google to warn of AI dangers” Business Insider, 2 May. 2023, https://www.businessinsider.com/elon-musk-ai-godfather-geoffrey-hinton-warning-tech-automation-2023-5
10. “Warning of AI’s danger, pioneer Geoffrey Hinton quits Google to speak freely” Ars Technica, 1 May. 2023, https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2023/05/warning-of-ais-danger-pioneer-geoffrey-hinton-quits-google-to-speak-freely/