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The risks of artificial intelligence must be considered as the technology evolves: Geoffrey Hinton

Artificial intelligence can be used as a force for good – but there are also big risks involved with the generative technology as it gets even smarter and more commonly, the “godfather of AI” Geoffrey Hinton told the Collision tech conference in Toronto on Wednesday.

In a Q&A with Nick Thompson, CEO of The Atlantic magazine, Hinton – a cognitive psychologist and computer scientist who is a University Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto – expanded on concerns he has recently expressed about the technology he plays a key role in developing.

“We have to take seriously the possibility that (AI models) get to be smarter than us – which seems quite likely – and they have goals of their own,” Hinton said during a standing-room-only event at the conference, which was expected to draw nearly 40,000 attendees over three days.

“They may well develop the goal of taking control – and if they do that, we’re in trouble.”

Hinton, who recently left Google so he could speak more freely about AI risks, was one of several U of T community members scheduled to speak at Collisionwhich is billed as North America’s “fastest-growing tech conference” and counts the university as an event partner.

The government of Ontario used the occasion of the conference to announce that the Vector Institute – a partnership between government, universities and industry where Hinton is chief scientific adviser – will receive up to $27 million in new funding to “accelerate the safe and responsible adoption of ethical AI” and help businesses boost their competitiveness through the technology.

During his talk, Hinton outlined six potential risks posed by the rapid development of current AI models: bias and discrimination; unemployment; online echo chambers; fake news; “battle robots”; and existential risks to humanity.

Hinton spoke before a standing-room only crowd at the conference (photo by Johnny Guatto)

When Thompson suggested that some economists argue that technological change over time simply transforms the function of jobs rather than eliminating them entirely, Hinton noted that “super intelligence will be a new situation that has never happened before” – and that even if chatbots like ChatGPT only replace white-collar jobs that involve producing text, that would still be an unprecedented development.

“I’m not sure how they can confidently predict that more jobs will be created for the number of jobs lost,” he said.

Hinton added much of his concern

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