AI Godfather & OpenAI employees warn tech could cause “human extinction”

Anurag Singh
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Geoffrey Hinton, also known as the “godfather of AI” and former employees of both Google and OpenAI have penned an open letter claiming AI could lead to “human extinction”.

In an open letter, several former employees of OpenAI and Google warned that advanced AI companies, such as OpenAI, suppress criticism and oversight. They also noted the risks this emerging technology holds.

“We also understand the serious risks posed by these technologies. These risks range from the further entrenchment of existing inequalities to manipulation and misinformation, to the loss of control of autonomous AI systems potentially resulting in human extinction,” reads the letter.

The open letter is signed by 13 former OpenAI and Google DeepMind employees, six of whom chose to remain anonymous. Geoffrey Hinton, regarded as the Godfather of AI, won the 2018 Turing Award for his foundational work that led to the current boom in artificial intelligence, also endorsed the letter.

Hinton was the doctoral supervisor of OpenAI co-founder and ex-Chief Scientist Ilya Sutskever’s initial doctoral work, and later joined DNNResearch in 2013, helmed by Hinton. Google later purchased the company, which is the progenitor of Google DeepMind.

Hinton has been vocal about the downsides of the AI tech. Last year in May, he told the New York Times that he regrets his life’s work, warning others about the risks that generative AI poses to the world.

OpenAI logo on GPT-4 illustration by OpenAI

The letter’s signers, worried about the dangers of AI systems, are calling for stronger whistleblower protections for people who raise safety concerns. They argue that the current whistleblower laws just don’t cut it.

For those who might not be familiar, the Department of Labor has whistleblower protection laws in place. These laws shield employees who report wage theft, discrimination, unsafe work environments, and fraud, among other issues. An employer can’t punish you for speaking up about these issues. That punishment could include getting fired, demoted, passed over for a promotion, denied overtime, or even having your hours cut.

The letter’s signees demand that AI companies agree not to enter into or enforce any agreements that prohibit “disparagement” or criticism.

In May 2024, Vox reported that OpenAI has an extremely restrictive off-boarding agreement for former employees. This agreement includes nondisclosure and non-disparagement provisions, prohibiting them from criticizing their former employer for the rest of their lives. Even acknowledging the existence of the NDA is a violation of the agreement.