Eric Horwitz, Microsoft’s chief scientific officer, believes artificial intelligence will allow humans of the future to flourish, but he’s clearly hedging his bets.
Horwitz published a post on the official Microsoft blog on May 30 titled “Thoughts on AI and the future of human blossoming”. This article discusses the future of artificial intelligence and begins a series of essays written by AI experts who received early access to OpenAI’s GPT-4 ahead of its public launch.
According to the blog post, Horwitz was surprised by the capabilities of OpenAI’s GPT-4 when he was granted such access in 2022:
“I saw unexpected glimpses of intelligence beyond that seen in previous AI systems. Compared to its predecessor, GPT-3.5 – the model used by millions as ChatGPT – I saw a significant leap in capabilities.
In particular, Horwitz praised the GPT-4’s ability to “interpret my intent and provide sophisticated responses to myriad cues”, which he said “felt like a ‘phase transition’, which contained images of emergent phenomena that I had encountered in physics.”
Horwitz writes that while testing the GPT-4, it “became increasingly clear that the model and its successors […] It has immense potential to be transformative.
Microsoft and OpenAI provided early access to GPT-4 to several experts and asked them to submit essays in hopes of identifying opportunities and challenges for the technology across multiple industries.
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However, on the same day Horwitz published the announcement notice, his name also appeared as a signatory to a document published by the Center for AI Safety.
The document, which contained only a foreword and a one-sentence description, was signed by a list of signatories representing a core of AI experts (with a handful of notable holdouts, including Meta’s Yann LeCun and Andrew Ng , Google co-founder Brains).
The statement read: “Mitigating the risk of AI extinction should be a global priority, along with other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war.”
The reception of the document has been somewhat divided on social media, with many experts explaining their reasons for signing it and others worrying about undefined risks – such as future AI systems with capabilities not currently possible. Diversion of attention from more important issues.
It is surprising to see intellectuals and scientists making these “AI doomsday scenarios” while ignoring the real catastrophe of climate change, the rise of anti-democratic forces, and growing economic inequality in real time.
— Ahmed Al Hadi (@zamakany) May 31, 2023
In his recent blog post, Horvitz addressed the “challenges” of developing secure AI, while also admitting that he is “worried” about the transformative nature of the technology. But there is no question of possible extinction.
Outside of AI, Microsoft is exploring other nascent technologies. The company was recently approved to participate in a central bank digital currency pilot project for the Central Bank of Brazil, along with Santander, Visa and several other applicants.
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