A letter signed by Elon Musk and hundreds of experts calling for a pause in the development of artificial intelligence is a “hot mess” of “AI hype” that even misleads academic papers, critics say. (Reuters/Mike Blake)
A A letter signed by Elon Musk and hundreds of experts calling for a pause in the development of artificial intelligence is a “hot mess” of “AI hype” that even misleads academic papers, critics say.
Billionaire Tesla boss Musk and other figures wrote that “AI systems with human competitive intelligence could pose a great risk to society and humanity”.
But Timnit Gebru, whose academic papers were cited to support his claim, wrote on Twitter on Thursday that his article actually warned against making such sweeping claims about AI.
“They usually say the opposite of what we say and cite our paper,” he wrote.
Co-author Emily Bender said the letter was a “hot mess” and “just dripping with AI hype”.
The risk of AI, he wrote, was never about AI being “too powerful” but “about the concentration of power in the hands of people, about the reproduction of systems of oppression, about the destruction of the information ecosystem”.
The open letter, published Wednesday on the website of the Musk-funded Future of Life Institute, calls for a six-month pause in the development of powerful AI systems.
The signatories, which include academics and tech giants like Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, say the pause should be used to strengthen regulation and ensure the system is secure.
However, just hours after the letter was published, signatory Emad Mostaque, head of UK AI Stability, has backed down from one of its key demands.
“I don’t think taking a six-month break is the best idea,” he wrote on Twitter.
However, he said there were “some interesting things” in the letter and that it would help shape the debate.
Another signatory, psychology professor Gary Marcus, spent the day on Twitter with critics including computer science academic Nick Holliman, who accused him of participating in a “ridiculous distraction”.
“I have repeatedly argued … that we should be concerned about how the existing system can continue to bias the past,” he wrote after one user suggested the letter was signed by “white people” who do not care about the current problems caused by by algorithm.
Big tech companies like Google, Meta and Microsoft have been working for years with AI systems – previously known as machine learning or big data – to help with translation, search and targeted advertising.
But late last year, San Francisco firm OpenAI boosted interest in AI when it launched ChatGPT, a bot that can generate natural-language text screeds from short prompts.
OpenAI earlier this month unveiled GPT-4, a more powerful version of the chatbot, prompting an open letter from Musk and more than 1,000 experts.
© Agence France-Presse