Friday, 22 September 2023

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DeepMind founder says AI existential risk ‘completely bonkers distraction’

DeepMind founder says AI existential risk 'completely bonkers distraction'

Elon Musk has repeatedly referred to AI as a “civilizational risk.” Geoffrey Hinton, one of the founding fathers of AI research, changed his tune recently, calling AI an “existential threat.” And then there’s Mustafa Suleyman, cofounder of DeepMind, a firm formerly backed by Musk that has been on the scene for over a decade, and coauthor of the newly released “The Coming Wave: Technology, Power, and the Twenty-first Century’s Greatest Dilemma.” One of the most prominent and longest-tenured experts in the field, he thinks such far-reaching concerns aren’t as pressing as others make them out to be, and in fact, the challenge from here on out is pretty straightforward.

The risks posed by AI have been front and center in public debates throughout 2023 since the technology vaulted into the public consciousness, becoming the subject of fascination in the press. “I just think that the existential-risk stuff has been a completely bonkers distraction,” Mustafa told MIT Technology Review last week. “There’s like 101 more practical issues that we should all be talking about, from privacy to bias to facial recognition to online moderation.”

The most pressing issue, in particular, should be regulation, he says. Suleyman is bullish on government’s across the world being able to effectively regulate AI. “I think everybody is having a complete panic that we’re not going to be able to regulate this,” Suleyman said. “It’s just nonsense. We’re totally going to be able to regulate it. We’ll apply the same frameworks that have been successful previously.”

His conviction is in part borne of the successful regulation of past technologies that were once considered cutting edge such as aviation and the internet. He argues: Without proper safety protocols for commercial flights, passengers would have never trusted airlines, which would have hurt business. On the internet, consumers can visit a myriad of sites but activities like selling drugs or promoting terrorism are banned—although not eliminated entirely. 

On the other hand, as the Review‘s Will Douglas Heaven noted to Suleyman, some observers argue that current internet regulations are flawed and don’t sufficiently hold big tech companies accountable. In particular, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, one of the cornerstones of current internet legislation, which offers platforms safe harbor for content posted by third party users. It’s the…

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