"Godfather of AI" quits Google to warn society about dangers of tech he helped create
Geoffrey Hinton, dubbed the “godfather of AI,” has left his position at Google, saying that he wants to be able to speak about the danger of the technology he helped create and that — to an extent — he regrets his work.
“It is hard to see how you can prevent the bad actors from using it for bad things,” Hinton told The New York Times in a highly publicized interview published May 1. He added, “I console myself with the normal excuse: If I hadn’t done it, somebody else would have.”
Hinton says one of his primary concerns with AI is its potential for spreading misinformation. He noted that, given how simple it is to use AI for text and image generation, it’s become easier for people to create fake content. Hinton worries that we’ll eventually reach a point where people might “not be able to know what is true anymore.”
“Right now, what we’re seeing is things like GPT-4 eclipses a person in the amount of general knowledge it has and it eclipses them by a long way. In terms of reasoning, it’s not as good, but it does already do simple reasoning,” Hinton told the BBC. “And given the rate of progress, we expect things to get better quite fast. So we need to worry about that.”
In a tweet, Hinton said that despite his decision to leave Google, he believes the company has acted very responsibly in regard to its work with AI. He noted that his departure was not so that he could criticize the company, but rather so that he could speak freely about the dangers of AI without having to worry how it could affect Google.
“I want to talk about AI safety issues without having to worry about how it interacts with Google’s business,” he told MIT Technology Review. “As long as I’m paid by Google, I can’t do that.”
Hinton, who is 75, also told the BBC that his age played a role in his exit.
When asked about whether AI could one day try to wipe out humanity, Hinton told CBS News, “It’s not inconceivable. That’s all I’ll say.”
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The NY Times got its hands on THAT Tucker text we were all waiting for
Last Monday, Fox News' primetime star Tucker Carlson was abruptly dismissed from the network in a surprise announcement that rippled across the media world. 2 days later, a piece dropped in The New York Times saying Carlson’s firing was tied to Fox execs recently learning of private text messages that “showed him making highly offensive and crude remarks,” including one text that “was particularly offensive, adding to the concern at the top of the company.”
Though The NYT didn’t disclose the contents of that text last week, the news outlet apparently got hold of it in the days since. On Tuesday night, the paper published a follow-up piece that featured the contents of the text in question.
Carlson allegedly sent the message to a staffer on his popular show, “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” on January 7, 2021 — 1 day after former President Donald Trump incited an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Carlson’s text reads in full:
“A couple of weeks ago, I was watching video of people fighting on the street in Washington. A group of Trump guys surrounded an Antifa kid and started pounding the living shit out of him. It was three against one, at least. Jumping a guy like that is dishonorable obviously. It’s not how white men fight. Yet suddenly I found myself rooting for the mob against the man, hoping they’d hit him harder, kill him. I really wanted them to hurt the kid. I could taste it. Then somewhere deep in my brain, an alarm went off: this isn’t good for me. I’m becoming something I don’t want to be. The Antifa creep is a human being. Much as I despise what he says and does, much as I’m sure I’d hate him personally if I knew him, I shouldn’t gloat over his suffering. I should be bothered by it. I should remember that somewhere somebody probably loves this kid, and would be crushed if he was killed. If I don’t care about those things, if I reduce people to their politics, how am I better than he is?”
While the text is undeniably racist and inflammatory (and also surprisingly self-aware at parts), many on Twitter were quick to point out that its contents are not all that different from the racist and inflammatory remarks Carlson would publicly make — on a nightly basis — as a Fox News primetime TV host.
As The Intercept’s Peter Maass succinctly put it on Twitter, “The problem, this story would have us believe, is that Tucker Carlson said quietly the things he said out loud.”
Tucker has been keeping a low profile since his unceremonious ousting, and his reps declined a request for comment following this latest report from The NYT published Tuesday. However, he did post one cryptic selfie-style video to Twitter on April 26. Without referring to Fox News by name, Carlson told his followers that “the people in charge … they’re afraid. They’ve given up persuasion. They’re resorting to force. But it won’t work.” As of this evening, the post has more than 80 million views.
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Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you back here tomorrow.
This newsletter featured contributions from Sophia Anderson, Danielle Brantley, and Tom McKenna.
This edition was copy edited by Isabelle Lichtenstein.
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