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AI Leaders Warn of ‘Risk of Extinction’ From the Technology

AI company CEOs and researchers issued another dire warning about the existential harms posed by the fast-developing technology. Critics, however, argue that focusing on hypothetical risks detracts from immediate societal concerns.

(Bloomberg) -- Chief executive officers of some of the leading companies in artificial intelligence, including Alphabet Inc.’s DeepMind, OpenAI and Anthropic, joined a growing chorus of leaders warning about the existential harms of the fast-developing technology. 

A brief statement released Tuesday by the the nonprofit Center for AI Safety said, “mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks, such as pandemics and nuclear war.” 

The statement was signed by more than 350 executives and researchers including Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, Demis Hassabis, who heads DeepMind and Dario Amodei, CEO of Anthropic, a startup co-founded by OpenAI veterans. 

The single sentence note is the latest high-profile warning from industry leaders calling attention to the serious risks artificial intelligence poses for society. In March, more than 1,100 industry leaders including Elon Musk, University of California Berkeley computer science professor Stuart Russell and Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Wozniak, advocated for a six-month pause on training powerful AI models.

Despite dire warnings from technology leaders, some skeptics contend that artificial intelligence isn’t advanced enough to justify fears that it will destroy humanity and that focusing on doomsday scenarios is only a distraction from issues like algorithmic bias, racism and the risk of rampant disinformation.

“I think it’s a way of controlling the narrative,” said Sasha Luccioni, a research scientist at AI startup Hugging Face. “We should be talking about legislation, things like the risks of bias, the ways AI is being used that is not good for society, but instead we are focusing on the hypothetical risks,” she said in an interview on Bloomberg Technology. “It is a bit of a hat trick.”

Earlier this month, Geoffrey Hinton — one of the so-called godfathers of artificial intelligence who spent decades revolutionizing the field and helping to create the advanced machine-learning technologies of today — announced he was leaving Google’s AI research team and said companies were moving too fast on deploying AI to the public.

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