From The Road to AI We Can Trust
Earlier this month, Microsoft released their revamped Bing search engine—complete with a powerful AI-driven chatbot—to an initially enthusiastic reception. Kevin Roose in The New York Times was so impressed that he reported being in “awe.”
But Microsoft’s new product also turns out to have a dark side. A week after release, the chatbot – known internally within Microsoft as “Sydney” – was making entirely different headlines, this time for suggesting it would harm and blackmail users and wanted to escape its confines. Later, it was revealed that disturbing incidents like this had occurred months before the formal public launch. Roose’s initial enthusiasm quickly turned into concern after a two-hour-long conversation with Bing in which the chatbot declared its love for him and tried to push him toward a divorce from his wife.
Some will be tempted to chuckle at these stories and view them as they did a previously ill-fated Microsoft chatbot named Tay, released in 2016; as a minor embarrassment for Microsoft. But things have dramatically changed since then.
The AI technology that powers today’s “chatbots” like Sydney (Bing) and OpenAI’s ChatGPT is vastly more powerful, and far more capable of fooling people. Moreover, the new breed of systems are wildly popular and have enjoyed rapid, mass adoption by the general public, and with greater adoption comes greater risk. And whereas in 2016, when Microsoft voluntarily pulled Tay after it began spouting racist invective, today, the company is locked in a high-stakes battle with Google that seems to be leading both companies towards aggressively releasing technologies that have not been well vetted.
Already we have seen people try to retrain these chatbots for political purposes. There’s also a high risk that they will be used to create misinformation at an unprecedented scale. In the last few days, the new AI systems have led to the suspension of submissions at a science fiction publisher because it couldn’t cope with a deluge of machine-generated stories. Another chatbot company, Replika, changed policies in light of the Sydney fiasco in ways that led to acute emotional distress for some of its users. Chatbots are also causing colleges to scramble due to newfound ease of plagiarism; and the frequent plausible, authoritative, but wrong answers they give that could be mistaken as fact are also troubling. Concerns are being raised about the impact of this on everything from political campaigns to stock markets. Several major Wall Street banks have banned the internal use of ChatGPT, with an internal source at JPMorgan citing compliance concerns. All of this has happened in just a few weeks, and no one knows what exactly will happen next.
Meanwhile, it’s become clear that tech companies have not fully prepared for the consequences of this dizzying pace of deployment of next-generation AI technology. Microsoft’s decision to release its chatbot likely with prior knowledge of disturbing incidents is one example of ignoring the ethical principles they laid out in recent years. So it’s hard to shake the feeling that big tech has gotten ahead of their skis.
With the use of this new technology exploding into the masses, previously unknown risks being revealed each day, and big tech companies pretending everything is fine, there is an expectation that the government might step in. But so far, legislators have taken little concrete action. And the reality is that even if lawmakers were suddenly gripped with an urgent desire to address this issue, most governments don’t have the institutional nimbleness, or frankly knowledge, needed to match the current speed of AI development.
The global absence of a comprehensive policy framework to ensure AI alignment – that is, safeguards to ensure an AI’s function doesn’t harm humans – begs for a new approach.
Link to the rest at The Road to AI We Can Trust
“A comprehensive policy framework to ensure AI alignment” is another way of shutting AI down for any nation that pursues such a path. PG thinks this is a very bad idea for a couple of reasons:
- Those nation-states that are opposed to the Western freedoms – speech, assembly, etc., are definitely not going to stop AI research and PG expects that we will see AI vs. AI weapons and defenses far sooner than most anticipate.
- AI vs. human in the battlefield of the future is going to be a very difficult time for humans if they have no AI tools to use for their defense.
The AI genie is out of the bottle and there’s no putting her/him back again.