Bernie Sanders, Elon Musk and White House seeking my help, says ‘godfather of AI’

Dr Geoffrey Hinton has been inundated with requests to talk after quitting Google to warn about risk of digital intelligence

Geoffrey Hinton, the scientist who until very recently worked for Google and who now is warning of the dangers of AI.

The man often touted as the godfather of artificial intelligence will be responding to requests for help from Bernie Sanders, Elon Musk and the White House, he says, just days after quitting Google to warn the world about the risk of digital intelligence.

Dr Geoffrey Hinton, 75, won computer science’s highest honour, the Turing award, in 2018 for his work on “deep learning”, along with Meta’s Yann Lecun and the University of Montreal’s Yoshua Bengio.

The technology, which now underpins the AI revolution, came about as a result of Hinton’s efforts to understand the human brain – efforts which convinced him that digital brains might be about to supersede biological ones.

But the London-born psychologist and computer scientist might not offer the advice the powerful want to hear.

“The US government inevitably has a lot of concerns around national security. And I tend to disagree with them,” he told the Guardian. “For example, I’m sure that the defense department considers that the only safe hands for this stuff is the US defense department – the only group of people to actually use nuclear weapons.

“I’m a socialist,” Hinton added. “I think that private ownership of the media, and of the ‘means of computation’, is not good.

“If you view what Google is doing in the context of a capitalist system, it’s behaving as responsibly as you could expect it to do. But that doesn’t mean it’s trying to maximise utility for all people: it’s legally obliged to maximise utility for its shareholders, and that’s a very different thing.”

Hinton has been fielding a new request to talk every two minutes since he spoke out on Monday about his fears that AI progress could lead to the end of civilisation within 20 years.

But when it comes to offering concrete advice, he is lost for words. “I’m not a policy guy,” he says. “I’m just someone who’s suddenly become aware that there’s a danger of something really bad happening. I wish I had a nice solution, like: ‘Just stop burning carbon, and you’ll be OK.’ But I can’t see a simple solution like that.”

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