Elon Musk and others urge AI pause, citing 'risks to society'

March 30, 2023 10:43 am

Elon Musk [Source: Reuters]

Elon Musk and a group of artificial intelligence experts and industry executives are calling for a six-month pause in developing systems more powerful than OpenAI’s newly launched GPT-4, in an open letter citing potential risks to society.

Earlier this month, Microsoft-backed OpenAI unveiled the fourth iteration of its GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) AI program, which has wowed users by engaging them in human-like conversation, composing songs and summarising lengthy documents.

“Powerful AI systems should be developed only once we are confident that their effects will be positive and their risks will be manageable,” said the letter issued by the Future of Life Institute.

Article continues after advertisement

The non-profit is primarily funded by the Musk Foundation, as well as London-based group Founders Pledge, and Silicon Valley Community Foundation, according to the European Union’s transparency register.

“AI stresses me out,” Musk said earlier this month. He is one of the co-founders of industry leader OpenAI and his carmaker Tesla (TSLA.O) uses AI for an autopilot system.

Musk, who has expressed frustration over regulators critical of efforts to regulate the autopilot system, has sought a regulatory authority to ensure that development of AI serves the public interest.

“It is … deeply hypocritical for Elon Musk to sign on given how hard Tesla has fought against accountability for the defective AI in its self-driving cars,” said James Grimmelmann, a professor of digital and information law at Cornell University.

“A pause is a good idea, but the letter is vague and doesn’t take the regulatory problems seriously.”

Tesla last month had to recall more than 362,000 U.S. vehicles to update software after U.S. regulators said the driver assistance system could cause crashes, prompting Musk to tweet that the word “recall” for an over-the-air software update is “anachronistic and just flat wrong!”