This is a linkpost for https://yoshuabengio.org/2023/08/12/personal-and-psychological-dimensions-of-ai-researchers-confronting-ai-catastrophic-risks.
For most of these years, I did not think about the dual-use nature of science because our research results seemed so far from human capabilities and the work was only academic. It was a pure pursuit of knowledge, beautiful, but mostly detached from society until about a decade ago. I now believe that I was wrong and short-sighted to ignore that dual-use nature. I also think I was not paying enough attention to the possibility of losing control to superhuman AIs.
[...] it started to dawn on me that my previous estimates of when human-level AI would be reached needed to be radically changed. Instead of decades to centuries, I now see it as 5 to 20 years with 90% confidence.And what if it was, indeed, just a few years?
I started reading more about AI safety and came to a critically important conclusion: we do not yet know how to make an AI agent controllable and thus guarantee the safety of humanity! And yet we are – myself included until now – racing ahead towards building such systems.
It is painful to face the idea that we may have been contributing to something that could be greatly destructive. Human nature will lead us towards brushing aside these thoughts or finding comfort in reassuring arguments rather than face the full horror of such possibilities. Bringing the benefits of AI to the table is not sufficient to compensate if the possible negative outcomes include catastrophic misuses of AI on par with nuclear war and pandemics, or even existential risk.
As scientists, we should avoid making claims we can’t support; but as decision-makers we also ought to act under uncertainty to take precautions. In spite of our differences in points of view, it’s time for our field of AI to seriously discuss the questions: what if we succeed? What if potentially dangerous superhuman AI capabilities are developed sooner than expected? Let’s embrace these challenges and our differences, while being mindful of each other’s humanity and our unique emotional and psychological journeys in this new era of AI.