Geoffrey Hinton recently quit Google warning of the dangers of artificial intelligence. Is AI really going to destroy us? And how long do we have to prevent it?
The first thing Geoffrey Hinton says when we start talking, and the last thing he repeats before I turn off my recorder, is that he left Google, his employer of the past decade, on good terms. “I have no objection to what Google has done or is doing, but obviously the media would love to spin me as ‘a disgruntled Google employee’. It’s not like that.”
It’s an important clarification to make, because it’s easy to conclude the opposite. After all, when most people calmly describe their former employer as being one of a small group of companies charting a course that is alarmingly likely to wipe out humanity itself, they do so with a sense of opprobrium. But to listen to Hinton, we’re about to sleepwalk towards an existential threat to civilisation without anyone involved acting maliciously at all.