Tesla CEO Elon Musk and a group of artificial intelligence experts and industry executives are calling for a six-month pause in developing systems more powerful than OpenAI's newly launched GPT-4, in an open letter citing potential risks to society and humanity.
The letter, issued by the non-profit Future of Life Institute and signed by more than 1,000 people including Musk, called for a pause on advanced AI development until shared safety protocols for such designs were developed, implemented and audited by independent experts.
"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 said.
The letter detailed potential risks to society and civilization by human-competitive AI systems in the form of economic and political disruptions, and called on developers to work with policymakers on governance and regulatory authorities.
Co-signatories included Stability AI CEO Emad Mostaque, researchers at Alphabet-owned DeepMind, as well as AI heavyweights Yoshua Bengio and Stuart Russell.
According to the European Union's transparency register, the Future of Life Institute is primarily funded by the Musk Foundation, as well as London-based effective altruism group Founders Pledge, and Silicon Valley Community Foundation.
The concerns come as EU police force Europol on Monday joined a chorus of ethical and legal concerns over advanced AI like ChatGPT, warning about the potential misuse of the system in phishing attempts, disinformation and cybercrime.
Meanwhile, the UK government unveiled proposals for an "adaptable" regulatory framework around AI.
The government's approach, outlined in a policy paper published on Wednesday, would split responsibility for governing artificial intelligence (AI) between its regulators for human rights, health and safety, and competition, rather than create a new body dedicated to the technology.
Since its release last year, Microsoft-backed OpenAI's ChatGPT has prompted rivals to accelerate developing similar large language models, and companies to integrate generative AI models into their products.
Sam Altman, chief executive at OpenAI, hasn't signed the letter, a spokesperson at Future of Life told Reuters. OpenAI didn't immediately respond to request for comment.
"The letter isn’t perfect, but the spirit is right: we need to slow down until we better understand the ramifications," said Gary Marcus, a professor at New York University who signed the letter. "They can cause serious harm... the big players are becoming increasingly secretive about what they are doing, which makes it hard for society to defend against whatever harms may materialize."