Tech execs fear future with AI: ‘I don’t know where optimism would spring from’

Tech execs fear future with AI: ‘I don’t know where optimism would spring from’

Next week, President Biden is set to reveal a comprehensive executive order focused on artificial intelligence. However, influential technology figures cautioned on Thursday that this should only be considered as a initial step and much more must be done to safeguard society from the effects of AI on employment, surveillance, and democracy.

Meredith Whittaker, president of the Signal Foundation, expressed doubts about the source of optimism and described it as a desolate landscape at The Washington Post’s AI summit. She also noted that the incentives currently in place do not prioritize the social good.

Alexandr Wang, the CEO and creator of Scale AI, issued a cautionary statement about the potential risks of using underdeveloped AI technology in military operations. Last year, Scale was awarded a $249 million contract to supply various AI capabilities to the Defense Department. In addition to this contract, Scale’s clientele includes the Army, Air Force, the Marine Corps University, and Oshkosh, a manufacturer of military vehicles.

The speaker expressed concern that a potentially hazardous AI system may be hastily deployed in military settings, posing significant risks to soldiers. He believes it is important to consider the difference between mature and overly hyped AI technology.

The executive order from Biden is anticipated to alleviate immigration obstacles for highly skilled employees and mandate that advanced AI models undergo evaluations prior to being utilized by federal employees. However, despite the long-awaited action from the federal government, the executives expressed apprehension about the potential impact of AI in the future.

“It is a cause for great concern,” expressed Whittaker. “We are at a disadvantage in terms of lobbying influence [from prominent technology companies] and our ability to sway decision-makers in Congress.”

The introduction of ChatGPT and other generative AI tools has brought about swift progress in artificial intelligence and has heightened global anxiety over its potential impact on society. Leaders are also showing growing worry about its effect on democracy worldwide, particularly as the world approaches a crucial year for elections.

According to Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee and co-founder of Beyond the Screen, the advancement of technology has been incredibly fast and we should not underestimate its impact by labeling it as a mere “toy.”

The speaker believes that this attitude is risky, as it simply states that this is a temporary trend. She mentions that there are advancements in using structured reasoning, and we should not ignore the possibility that this could pose a threat.

In the meantime, Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who has increased the Senate’s focus on AI through hosting private forums, shared a similar view. The executive branch is taking regulatory action but it is widely acknowledged that the ultimate solution lies in legislation, according to Schumer.

Biden’s principal science advisor, Arati Prabhakar, agreed with the statement. She stated, “The majority leader is absolutely right… There is no doubt that further resources will be necessary.” Prabhakar, who heads the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House, made these remarks.

Prabhakar emphasized the importance of individuals fulfilling their duties and commitments. She stressed that the choices we make regarding AI will have a long-lasting impact on the future.