On March 28th, 2023, a group of acclaimed ethicists published a letter from the Future of Life Institute, pleading for a six-month moratorium on AI development projects. Signed by more than 2000 people, the petition claims that the emerging AI models pose numerous future threats attributable to the misuse of technology.
Well-known figures like Turing award winner Yoshua Benigo, Elon Musk, and the US entrepreneur Steve Wozniak have chosen to participate in the campaign by signing the said open letter earlier this week.
Besides the open letter protest, much more is happening around this AI vibe. Prominent names like Timnit Gebru, Angelina McMiillan, and Emily M. Bender have started working together at the DAIR Institute.
They are conducting new research that aims to analyze and expose AI-associated harms. Gebru and the team are known for their controversial action of criticizing the abilities of AI, which made them lose their jobs at Google.
The Researcher’s Take
The names of Gebru, Angelina, and Emily were not on the signatory list. In fact, they have strongly criticized the open letter campaign as they believe it doesn’t relate well with the ground-level problem associated with the future of technology and development. The trio solely believes that the harms from so-called AI development are true and prevailing. They may promote exploitative labor practices.
However, according to Gebru, Angelina, and Emily, the debated letter has failed to establish and exhibit a connection between AI development and technology threats.
While they have supported several recommendations in the letter, which they proposed earlier in 2021 in the PR-reviewed paper called ‘Stochastic Parrots,’ they are not ready to stand with the overshadowed and fear-mongering AI hype. Scientists believe that this irrational hype may drive an imparity between human competitive intelligence and powerful digital minds.
The letter, according to the trio, talks about a number of hypothetical risks which have been imagined based on a killing ideology – longtermism. The said ideology somehow overlooks the actual harms and talks about illogical consequences.
The said harms include huge data theft and worker exploitation to create products profitable for a handful of entities. Besides, these systems may lead to the explosion of synthetic media, which may later reproduce systems of operation, endangering the entire information ecosystem. Gebru and the other two also believe that the consequences of the AI system development may create social inequities by handing over the power to a select group of people.
The Same Aim
Whether it is a fantasized AI-induced utopia or an apocalypse exhibiting a potentially catastrophic future, the “Future of Life Institute petition” has seemingly taken the tech world by storm. It’s being presented as a solid protest against the ongoing trials of inflating the capabilities of automated systems.
While the opinions of the petition signatories and team Gebru don’t align well, both parties’ goals seem identical.
They aim to enforce transparency and remove the potential threats to technology and society triggered by the bird-brained development of AI.