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AI Pioneer Says Universal Basic Income Essential to Combat AI Job Losses, Forsees Human Extinction-Level Threats

Last Updated May 24, 2024 10:56 AM
Samantha Dunn
Last Updated May 24, 2024 10:56 AM
Key Takeaways
  • Geoffrey Hinton urges governments to implement universal basic income to combat job losses caused by AI.
  • Hinton warns of potential human extinction-level threats from unregulated AI, advocating for international regulations.
  • The professor also addresses the dangers of the military application of AI.

Professor Geoffrey Hinton, renowned as the ‘godfather of AI,’ has said that governments must adopt universal basic income (UBI) to mitigate widespread unemployment caused by AI advancements.

Hinton, a pioneer in neural networks and a former Google employee, warned that the rapid development of AI poses significant risks, including human extinction-level threats. He criticized the current pace at which tech companies are developing AI products, suggesting that the drive for innovation might overshadow critical safety measures.

AI Job Losses Anticipated

In an interview with the BBC , Professor Hinton expressed his deep concerns about the societal impacts of artificial intelligence. He highlighted the urgent need for a universal basic income to address the economic disparities and job losses anticipated as AI continues to evolve and take over numerous mundane tasks.

“I was consulted by people in Downing Street and I advised them that universal basic income was a good idea,” Hinton stated, emphasizing that without such measures, the wealth generated by increased productivity would disproportionately benefit the rich while leaving many without employment.

“My guess is in between five and 20 years from now there’s a probability of half that we’ll have to confront the problem of AI trying to take over,” he said, describing the potential for AI to autonomously develop goals that could be detrimental to humanity.

What is Universal Basic Income?

The concept of a universal basic income as suggested by the name is a means of providing all citizens with a fixed amount of money regardless of their financial status.

Proponents of UBI argue that it can help cushion the effects of job displacement caused by technological advancements, such as AI and automation, by providing a financial safety net.

These supporters believe that UBI can simplify welfare systems, empower individuals by giving them more financial freedom, and stimulate economic activity by increasing consumer spending. Moreover, it is seen as a way to address the growing economic disparities exacerbated by technological changes.

Critics, however, raise concerns about the feasibility and sustainability of UBI. They argue that implementing UBI on a large scale would be prohibitively expensive and could lead to higher taxes or reallocation of funds from other essential public services such as healthcare and education.

There are also debates on whether UBI would effectively reduce poverty or merely provide a temporary fix without addressing the underlying structural issues in the economy.

Urges Global Military AI Ban

In the interview Hinton also voiced his concerns about the military applications of AI, suggesting the need for international agreements similar to the Geneva Conventions to regulate their use. He pointed to recent developments where AI algorithms are used to generate military targets, which he described as “the thin end of the wedge.”

The potential for AI systems to make autonomous decisions to kill people is particularly alarming to Hinton. “What I’m most concerned about is when these can autonomously make the decision to kill people,” he said to the BBC.

Despite his worries, Hinton acknowledged that the West currently leads in AI research compared to autocracies like Russia and China. However, he warned that this lead might not last as other nations increase their investments in AI technology.

“Putin said some years ago that whoever controls AI controls the world. So I imagine they’re working very hard,” he noted, advocating for a prohibition on military uses of AI as a more sustainable solution.

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