Andrew Ng, co-founder of Google Brain and former chief scientist at Baidu, has accused large tech companies of spreading fear about artificial intelligence leading to human extinction as part of a “regulatory capture campaign” to shut down competition from open source AI.
In an Oct. 30 interview with The Australian Financial Review, Professor Ng said the idea that AI could make humans go extinct is a “massively, colossally dumb idea” used by lobbyists to argue for heavy regulation that would crush innovation in the AI industry.
Ng called out OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, one of his former students at Stanford, for signing a letter in May warning that “mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority.” Professor Ng suggested OpenAI is incentivized to limit open-source AI that could compete with its proprietary models.
“There are definitely large tech companies that would rather not have to try to compete with open source [AI], so they’re creating fear of AI leading to human extinction.”
While acknowledging AI has caused harm, including deaths from self-driving cars, Professor Ng argued onerous regulation could do more damage than leaving AI unchecked. “I don’t think no regulation is the right answer, but with the direction regulation is headed in many countries, I think we’d be better off with no regulation than what we’re getting,” he said.
However, he believes thoughtful transparency requirements on tech companies could have prevented past disasters like the social media crisis of the early 2000s. Greater transparency will also help avert future AI mishaps, he said. Professor Ng warned against regulations imposing licensing burdens on the AI industry, saying it would “crush innovation.”
The scathing comments from one of the world’s pioneering AI experts suggest large tech firms are exploiting extinction fears to maintain their dominance at the expense of open-source developers. Professor Ng’s remarks lend credence to suspicions that anti-competitive interests have co-opted the AI safety movement.
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