On May 1 2023, a popular post to Reddit’s r/technology claimed that Geoffrey Hinton (the “godfather of AI”) “quit Google with regrets and fears” about artificial intelligence:
That post linked to a May 1 2023 article by technology news site The Verge. A subheading stated that Hinton was “now free to speak about the risks of AI,” and the piece began:
Geoffrey Hinton, who alongside two other so-called “Godfathers of AI” won the 2018 Turing Award for their foundational work that led to the current boom in artificial intelligence, now says a part of him regrets his life’s work. Hinton recently quit his job at Google in order to speak freely about the risks of AI, according to an interview with the 75-year-old in The New York Times.
“I console myself with the normal excuse: If I hadn’t done it, somebody else would have,” said Hinton, who had been employed by Google for more than a decade. “It is hard to see how you can prevent the bad actors from using it for bad things.”
The Verge referenced an interview between Hinton and the New York Times. On May 1 2023, the Times tweeted:
A “lengthy” interview was published by the Times on May 1 2023. It began with background about Hinton’s career, the advent of artificial intelligence, and recent developments in the field.
Much of the reporting focused on Hinton’s credentials and lengthy career in technology. The linked piece was not presented in an interview format, and Hinton’s observations were interspersed throughout.
Toward the end of the piece, the story quoted Hinton on the matter of responsible AI development:
… [in 2022], as Google and OpenAI built systems using much larger amounts of data, [Hinton’s] view changed. He still believed the systems were inferior to the human brain in some ways but he thought they were eclipsing human intelligence in others. “Maybe what is going on in these systems,” he said, “is actually a lot better than what is going on in the brain.”
As companies improve their A.I. systems, he believes, they become increasingly dangerous. “Look at how it was five years ago and how it is now,” he said of A.I. technology. “Take the difference and propagate it forwards. That’s scary.”
Until last year , he said, Google acted as a “proper steward” for the technology, careful not to release something that might cause harm. But now that Microsoft has augmented its Bing search engine with a chatbot — challenging Google’s core business — Google is racing to deploy the same kind of technology. The tech giants are locked in a competition that might be impossible to stop, Dr. Hinton said.
His immediate concern is that the internet will be flooded with false photos, videos and text, and the average person will “not be able to know what is true anymore.”
On May 1 2023, Hinton published one tweet about the Times article. He said that he felt that the article’s author might have intimated that Hinton left Google to criticize the company, which he was careful to dispute:
“Maybe I over-reacted. When I read it I thought it could easily be interpreted as implying that I left so that I could criticize Google and that is certainly not the case … NYT is definitely not garbage. It has great reporters. I was just correcting a nuance.”
On May 1 2023, the New York Times published “‘The Godfather of A.I.’ Leaves Google and Warns of Danger Ahead.” In the piece, Times reporter Cade Metz excerpted comments made by Hinton in a late April 2023 interview. In a tweet, Hinton clarified that Google “has acted very responsibly.” However, it is true Hinton resigned from Google in order to be able to discuss novel risks posed by artificial intelligence, which is likely to include a major upswing in disinformation and misinformation across the board.