Elon Musk, Top AI Researchers Sign Open Letter Asking For Pause In High-Level AI Research

AI has been moving at breakneck speed over the last few months, but there are now concerns that it’s getting too good, too quickly.

Elon Musk and several top AI researchers have signed an open letter asking for a pause in giant AI experiments. “We call on all AI labs to immediately pause for at least 6 months the training of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4. This pause should be public and verifiable, and include all key actors. If such a pause cannot be enacted quickly, governments should step in and institute a moratorium,” the letter says. “Powerful AI systems should be developed only once we are confident that their effects will be positive and their risks will be manageable,” the letter added.

Prominent signatories in the letter included Elon Musk, Emad Mostaque, CEO of Stability.ai which has developed popular image generator Stable Diffusion, researchers at Google-owned DeepMind which developed Alpha Go, Stuart Russel, and Yoshua Bengio, who’s considered among the “godfathers” of AI. Interestingly, the Future of Life Institute, which published the letter, is primarily funded by the Musk Foundation.

“AI systems with human-competitive intelligence can pose profound risks to society and humanity, as shown by extensive research and acknowledged by top AI labs. Advanced AI could represent a profound change in the history of life on Earth, and should be planned for and managed with commensurate care and resources. Unfortunately, this level of planning and management is not happening, even though recent months have seen AI labs locked in an out-of-control race to develop and deploy ever more powerful digital minds that no one – not even their creators – can understand, predict, or reliably control,” the letter says.

“Contemporary AI systems are now becoming human-competitive at general tasks, and we must ask ourselves: Should we let machines flood our information channels with propaganda and untruth? Should we automate away all the jobs, including the fulfilling ones? Should we develop nonhuman minds that might eventually outnumber, outsmart, obsolete and replace us? Should we risk loss of control of our civilization? Such decisions must not be delegated to unelected tech leaders. Powerful AI systems should be developed only once we are confident that their effects will be positive and their risks will be manageable. This confidence must be well justified and increase with the magnitude of a system’s potential effects,” the letter continues.

The letter then goes on to say that AI companies should jointly develop a set of shared safety protocols to responsibly create AI. “AI labs and independent experts should use this pause to jointly develop and implement a set of shared safety protocols for advanced AI design and development that are rigorously audited and overseen by independent outside experts. These protocols should ensure that systems adhering to them are safe beyond a reasonable doubt. This does not mean a pause on AI development in general, merely a stepping back from the dangerous race to ever-larger unpredictable black-box models with emergent capabilities,” the letter says.

It’s not surprising that Elon Musk has signed this letter — on Twitter, Musk has been sharing memes about how AI could take over humanity, and has said that AI is the issue that’s causing him to lose the most sleep these days. But interestingly, the letter has no signatories from OpenAI, the firm that’s currently seen to be leading the AI race, and has several signatories from its rivals, including Google and Stability.ai. Their signings could be construed by some — perhaps unfairly — as an attempt to halt OpenAI’s progress until their own firms catch up. But the very fact that credible voices in the space are calling for something as drastic as a pause in research indicates just how much potential AI models have already shown in their ability to shape the future of the human race.