Peter Doocy arrived at Friday’s White House press briefing with an important question top of mind — one concerning robots and the looming end of organised human life.
“There’s an expert from the Machine Intelligence Research Institute who says that ‘If there is not an indefinite pause on AI development’ — this is a quote — ‘literally everyone on Earth will die,’” Doocy said when he was called on at the briefing. “Would you agree that does not sound good?”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre chuckled, as did several other people in the White House press briefing room.
“Your delivery, Peter, it’s — it’s quite something,” Ms Jean-Pierre said.
“It sounds crazy, but is it?” Doocy responded.
Ms Jean-Pierre replied that the White House has seen the letter from the institute and understands their concern, but has a “comprehensive blueprint in place” since October and had nothing else to share.
“So is President Biden worried that artificial intelligence could become self-aware?”
Ms Jean-Pierre gave few other details, but said that the federal government is working to establish a cohesive approach to “AI-related risks.”
The rise of artifical intelligence (AI) and its increasingly visible presence in daily life through systems like ChatGPT has led a number of people to voice serious concerns about AI’s role and purpose in society.
An open letter from the Future of Life Institute calls on AI labs to immediately pause large-scale AI experiments, arguing that AI labs are “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.”
“Powerful AI systems should be developed only once we are confident that their effects will be positive and their risks will be manageable,” the open letter reads. “This confidence must be well justified and increase with the magnitude of a system's potential effects.”
The letter calls on governments to significantly increase their AI governance systems, which, according to Ms Jean-Pierre, is something the US is actively looking at as AI development continues at a rapid pace.
The Machine Intelligence Research Institute, the organisation Doocy referenced, was founded in 2000 and moved to Silicon Valley in 2005 out of a concern that AI systems could become self-aware or superintelligent and pose grave risks to humanity. The institute, currently located in Berkeley, has in the past been supported by donors like Peter Thiel and Vitalik Buterin.
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