Ray Kurzweil refutes calls for moratorium on AI research

Renowned futurist and former engineering director at Google, Ray Kurzweil, published a rebuttal to the letter calling for a moratorium on AI research, explaining that the proposal is unrealistic and deprives humanity of the potential for medical breakthroughs and innovations. Reason, these breakthroughs and innovations have a profound impact on human beings.

International letter for a moratorium on artificial intelligence development

An open letter signed by scientists and celebrities from around the world (Posted on FutureOfLife.org) called for a complete moratorium on the development of artificial intelligence stronger than the latest version, GPT-4, created by OpenAI.

In addition to moratoriums on further development of AI, they called for safety protocols to be overseen by third-party independent experts.

Some points raised by the authors of the open letter:

  • AI poses profound risks
  • AI development should only continue after beneficial applications of the technology have been enumerated and justified
  • AI should only proceed if “we” (the thousands of signatories to this letter) are confident that the risks of AI are manageable.
  • AI developers are asked to work with policymakers to develop an AI governance system comprised of regulators.
  • Develop watermarking technology to help identify AI-created content and control the spread of this technology.
  • A system to assign responsibility for harm caused by artificial intelligence
  • Building Institutions to Respond to the Disruptions Wrought by AI Technologies

The letter appears to come from the idea that AI technology is centralized and can be suspended by the few organizations that control it. But AI isn't just in the hands of governments, research institutions and corporations.

AI at this point is an open-source and decentralized technology, developed collaboratively by thousands of people around the world.

Ray Kurzweil: Futurist, author, and former director of engineering at Google

Ray Kurzweil has been designing software and machines focused on artificial intelligence since the 1960s, has written many bestselling books on the subject, and is known for making often correct predictions about the future.

Of the 147 predictions he made about life in 2009, only three were wrong, a total of 2%.

One of his predictions in the 1990s was that much physical media, such as books, would lose popularity when digitized. When computers were big and bulky in the 1990s, he predicted by 2009 that computers would be small enough to wear, and it turned out to be true (What's My Prediction – 2010 PDF).

Ray Kurzweil's recent predictions focus on all the benefits AI will bring, especially breakthroughs in medicine and science.

Kurzweil also focuses on the ethics of artificial intelligence.

In 2017, he was one of the participants (along with OpenAI CEO Sam Altman) to draft an open letter called Asilomar AI Principles Guidelines for the safe and ethical development of artificial intelligence technologies also published on the Future of Life website.

Principles he helped formulate include:

  • “The goal of artificial intelligence research should not be to create directionless intelligence, but to create beneficial intelligence.
  • Investments in AI should be accompanied by funding for research to ensure its beneficial uses
  • There should be constructive and healthy communication between AI researchers and policymakers.
  • Advanced AI may represent profound changes in the history of life on Earth and should be planned and managed with commensurate care and resources.
  • The development of superintelligence should only serve broadly shared moral ideals and serve the interests of all humanity, not one nation or organization. “

Kurzweil's response to the open letter calling for a moratorium on AI development comes from a lifetime of technological innovation, in terms of all the beneficial benefits technology can bring to humans and the natural world.

His response focused on three areas:

  • Suspension requirements are too vague to be realistic
  • All countries must agree to a moratorium, otherwise the goal is defeated from the start
  • Pausing development ignores benefits such as identifying a cure for a disease.

too vague to be useful

His first point about the letter is that it's too vague because it leads to a pause on AI stronger than GPT-4, which it assumes is the only kind of AI.

Kurzweil wrote:

“Open letter on ‘pausing' AI research ‘more powerful than GPT-4' is too vague a standard to be realistic.”

States will opt out of the moratorium

His second point is that the demands made in the letter will only work if all researchers around the world voluntarily cooperate.

Any country that refuses to sign will have an advantage, which is likely to happen.

He wrote:

“And the proposal faces serious coordination problems: Those who agree to a moratorium could fall far behind companies or countries that disagree.”

This makes it clear that the goal of a complete moratorium is not feasible, as states will not relinquish their advantages, and AI is democratized and open source, in the hands of individuals around the world.

AI brings significant benefits to AI

There are editorials arguing that the benefits of AI to society are minimal, arguing that increased worker productivity is not enough to justify the risks they fear.

Kurzweil's final point is that an open letter seeking a moratorium on AI development completely ignores all the good that AI can do.

He explained:

“There are huge benefits to advancing AI in key areas such as medicine and health, education, the quest for renewable energy to replace fossil fuels, and many others.

…More nuance is needed if we hope to unlock the profound benefits of AI for health and productivity, while avoiding real dangers. “

Danger, Fear of the Unknown, and Benefits to Humanity

Kurzweil makes a good point on how AI can benefit society. He thinks there is no way to truly pause AI is justified.

His interpretation of artificial intelligence highlights the profound benefits to humanity inherent in artificial intelligence.

Will OpenAI's implementation of AI as a chatbot demean AI and obscure its benefits to humans, while scaring people who don't understand how generative AI works?

Featured image Shutterstock/Iurii Motov

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