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A(nother) Serious Threat To Humanity!

There are so many people, like Victor Frankenstein, in this world who get upset after experiencing the dire consequences of their inventions. Inventions, ranging from the atomic bomb to pepper spray, left their creators shell-shocked. Often, these people directly or indirectly expressed regret for their inventions. Geoffrey Everest Hinton (b. December 6, 1947) is the newest addition to this list.

Hinton, the British-Canadian Cognitive Psychologist and Computer Scientist who is most noted for his work on Artificial Neural Networks, announced his departure from Google LLC in the first week of May 2023, citing concerns about the risks of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology. He has predicted that AI-based Chatbots, or conversational robots, might soon become dangerous to human beings. Hinton has reportedly said that AI might be more dangerous than Climate Change, as the former has started posing an existential threat to Human Civilisation. He has also regretted his role in posing the serious threat to humanity. As expected, Hinton’s comments and actions have created a huge uproar across the globe.

Referring to powerful AI systems, Hinton has stressed: “The alarm bell I’m ringing has to do with the existential threat of them taking control. I used to think it was a long way off, but I now think it’s serious and fairly close.” The Computer Scientist has clarified that Climate Change is indeed a serious issue; however, there is a way out of this danger. According to the inventor of the AI technology, one can understand what should be done and what should not be done with Climate Change. Hence, it is possible to deal with the climate situation. Unfortunately, it is still not clear what should be done with AI.

In the last week of April 2023, the World Economic Forum (WEF) mentioned in a report, titled Future of Jobs, that around 83 million people might lose their jobs, globally, by the end of 2027. The WEF also predicted that nearly 14 million people (or about 2% of current global workforce) would become jobless by the end of 2027 because of the increasing application of AI in various sectors. Later, Hinton’s warning triggered a fresh tension in various circles about the use of AI technology.

Hinton has highlighted some of the most-discussed dangers of AI and chatbots. He is of the opinion that some people could spread Fake News for evil purposes with the help of this technology. Therefore, there may be a possibility of exceeding the level of danger (to take a destructive form). With AI, the production and propagation of lies can be quite easy, and those (mis)information can be unimaginably powerful. There is also the risk of causing disaster by stealing sensitive data, and by disrupting the financial and defence infrastructure. According to Hinton, recent actions of Russian President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin and his State Apparatus are fine examples of this. He has stated that the misuse of AI technology by powerful people can create serious dangers in any part of the world.

Another possible danger is of a different kind… the fear of job loss or layoff. Some researchers are trying hard to use robots in order to replace human beings in doing many tasks with the help of AI. Chatbots can increase both the scale and scope of this change. Various organisations have already started taking such initiatives. The CEO of a major tech giant recently claimed that AI could do the tasks of nearly 8,000 employees over the next five years. In a sense, this is an ancient problem. Machines and technologies replaced human labour long ago, resulting in a decrease in employment opportunities. However, the use of technology has not been stopped, and there is no reason to do so.

Although the need for human workers decreased in any sector or a particular type of job in the past, the demand for workers increased with the expansion of the economy as a whole. Thanks to technological advancement, productivity increased, and various countries made steady economic progress. However, the use of AI technology has triggered a particular uncertainty. It is still not clear how quickly this technology will advance, and how much employees will lose their jobs.

Hinton has predicted that AI could surpass the human brain, as far as the application of intelligence is concerned. This possibility is literally unprecedented, and its implications are clearly far-reaching.

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