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Ex-Google CEO warns of AI threats to humanity within 5-10 years

Dec 01, 2023

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Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt warned Tuesday, Nov. 28, that artificial intelligence could pose a danger to humanity within the next five to 10 years. At the Axios AI+ Summit in Washington, D.C., Schmidt said he worries about “the point at which the computer can start to make its own decisions to do things.”

Schmidt compared the development of nuclear weapons to that of AI, saying that it took 18 years to get a treaty over test bans after Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

“We don’t have that kind of time,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt called for the creation of a body similar to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to provide guidance to policymakers, who would regulate AI. He also said that AI could have significant benefits, such as helping to improve health care and education.

However, the potential risks of AI are causing growing concern among some experts.

Reuters reported that staff researchers at OpenAI sent a letter to the board of directors warning that a significant AI breakthrough could pose a threat to humanity. This letter was allegedly one of the reasons why the board dismissed Sam Altman as the company’s CEO last month.

The specific AI model that is causing concern is reportedly called Q* and it is said to have solved certain mathematical problems, potentially indicating that it has greater reasoning capabilities than previously thought.

The Verge asked Altman about the project, to which he said he had “no particular comment on that unfortunate leak.”

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ERIC SCHMIDT: “WHAT I WORRY ABOUT IS THE POINT AT WHICH THE COMPUTER CAN START TO MAKE ITS OWN DECISIONS TO DO THINGS.”

SHANNON LONGWORTH: THAT COULD HAPPEN WITHIN THE NEXT 5-10 YEARS, ENDANGERING HUMANITY, ACCORDING TO ERIC SCHMIDT, THE FORMER CEO OF GOOGLE. HE SPOKE AT THE AXIOS AI+ SUMMIT IN DC ON TUESDAY.

SCHMIDT: “IF YOU LOOK AT THE HISTORY, WE HAVE ONE EXPERIENCE WITH HORRIFIC THINGS–NAGASAKI AND HIROSHIMA, OF COURSE–AND DURING THAT TIME WE ENDED UP WITH TREATIES THAT TOOK 18 YEARS OR SO TO GET TO A TREATY OVER TEST BANS AND THINGS LIKE THAT. WE DON’T HAVE THAT KIND OF TIME.”

SCHMIDT CALLED TO FORM A BODY SIMILAR TO THE INTERGOVERNMENTAL PANEL ON CLIMATE CHANGE TO PROVIDE GUIDANCE TO POLICYMAKERS, WHO WOULD REGULATE AI.

LONGWORTH: DESPITE THE RISKS, SCHMIDT DID TOUCH ON–WHAT HE SEES AS–BENEFITS, SUCH AS AI DOCTORS TO WORK WITH MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS AND AI TUTORS TO WORK WITH TEACHERS.

YET, THE CONCERN ABOUT AI’S POTENTIAL THREAT TO HUMANITY IS LOOMING.

REUTERS REPORTED THAT THESE CONCERNS HAVE BEEN RAISED WITHIN OPENAI, WITH SEVERAL RESEARCHERS REPORTEDLY SENDING A LETTER TO THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS WARNING THAT A SIGNIFICANT AI BREAKTHROUGH COULD POSE A THREAT TO HUMANITY. THIS LETTER IS ALLEGEDLY ONE OF THE REASONS WHY THE BOARD DISMISSED SAM ALTMAN LAST MONTH.

THE MODEL IN QUESTION IS REPORTEDLY CALLED Q* (Q STAR) AND IT SOLVED CERTAIN MATH PROBLEMS, WHICH COULD INDICATE GREATER REASONING CAPABILITIES.

THE VERGE ASKED ALTMAN ABOUT THE PROJECT, TO WHICH HE SAID HE HAD “NO PARTICULAR COMMENT ON THAT UNFORTUNATE LEAK.”