Response to “Pause Giant AI Experiments: An Open Letter”

I completely disagree with the open letter signed by Elon Musk and numerous other luminaries in which they advocate a moratorium on advancing AI so that time can be taken to consider the implications and risks associated with this technology.

• While the intention is well-meaning and the risks are real, the analysis is superficial and unlikely to play out as suggested.

• Although there are undeniably major risks presented by advanced AI, a moratorium is unlikely to further progress in dealing with them and more likely hinder it. Political responses to disruptive forces tend to be reactionary rather than preemptive and it is not foreseeable that during such a moratorium political and regulatory solutions will be implemented. It is naive to think that if presented with a six month window of opportunity to consider the implications of AI that politicians and regulators are going to make use of it to formulate a master plan. Societal consensus and political responses to complex emerging problems do not take place over such short timescales, and attempts to do so are likely to be poorly considered.

• Such a moratorium is necessarily voluntary as there are no mechanisms for global enforcement, meaning that only good actors will participate, tilting the balance of power in the AI sphere in favour of bad actors.

• Technological advancement is inherently disruptive and there are many instances through modern history where technology has made types of human labour redundant. However, it is very clear that embracing technology has in general driven humanity forward not backward.

• Attempting to inhibit technological advancement is largely futile and unenforceable. Adapting to embrace it is by far the best approach. Adaptation is an evolutionary process, not something that can be decided in advance. We are not in a position to make advance determinations as there are too many unknowns and the spectrum of implications is unclear.

• Obstructing technological advancement that competes against us is a form of protectionism. Recently Italy placed a ban on ChatGPT, and some other EU nations are reportedly considering the same. Doing so, rather than encouraging home-grown development of AI industries represents a major economic setback, enforces competitive disadvantage, and missed opportunity that risks future economic irrelevance. This is not to say that Italy’s privacy-related concerns have no merit. However, placing an outright ban on emerging technologies, rather than adapting to them in tandem with their development is backward thinking. The same line of reasoning could equally be used to justify banning any of the cloud services we all rely on or the internet as a whole.

• Yes, advanced AI will be highly disruptive, but also transformative, with the potential to act as a huge multiplier on productivity, which drives economic progress and human development. Wilfully delaying or missing this opportunity is economically and strategically destructive, handing power to competitors and adversaries.

• We definitely should be acting quickly in considering the ethical and broader implications of AI upon society, but placing a halt on technological progress isn’t going to expedite this process. That will happen as the implications becomes tangible, and in the meantime we’ll have only delayed progress for no reason.

• Openness and transparency are the most powerful forces against malevolent misuse. Driving things underground inhibits this, imposing opaqueness on the sector.

• Turning AI into a black market is completely foolish.

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