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A warning from the godfathers of AI

Conversations with the men who made the future

By Harry Lambert

On 31 March this year, the British scientist Geoffrey Hinton resigned from Google, where he had directed AI research for a decade. Artificial intelligence, he argued, had reached the point where it could rapidly surpass human intelligence, and potentially take control: it was now an existential risk. One of the three ‘godfathers of AI’, Hinton won the Turing Award, the Nobel of computing, in 2018. Now the three scientists who share the award are divided: Yoshua Bengio shares Hinton’s fears and is calling for caution, while Yann LeCun believes AI will bring positive change.

In this New Statesman cover story, Harry Lambert visits Hinton at his home in London for a fascinating extended profile of the man at the heart of today’s debate about AI. He talks to Hinton’s critics, who might disagree on the pace of change but agree that further research and oversight are needed. Are we looking at an existential threat, humanity’s salvation, or both?

This article originally appeared in the 24 June issue of the New Statesman. You can read the text version here.

Written and read by Harry Lambert. If you enjoyed this article, you might like Margaret Atwood: why I don’t write utopias.

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