'Profound risk to humanity': Tech leaders call for 'pause' on advanced AI development

Elon Musk and Steve Wozniak both signed the open letter
Elon Musk and Steve Wozniak both signed the open letter Copyright AP
Copyright AP
By Luke Hurst
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Tech leaders such as Elon Musk and Steve Wozniak signed an open letter calling for a pause to AI development over its potential risks.


Famous entrepreneurs and academics have warned artificial intelligence (AI) systems "pose profound risks to society and humanity,” as they call for companies to put the brakes on further development of the technology.

Twitter CEO Elon Musk and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak are amongst a number of well-known signatories of an open letter that asks AI labs to immediately halt development, for at least six months.

The letter, published on the website for The Future of Life Institute, claims 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".

They have called for a pause on the training of any AI systems more powerful than GPT-4, OpenAI’s latest large language model (LLM), which underpins its wildly popular chatbot ChatGPT.

The letter, published on Wednesday, coincided with the release of a separate report from Goldman Sachs, which estimates that 300 million full-time jobs could be exposed to generative AI globally.

The explosion of interest in AI ushered in by the likes of ChatGPT and DALL-E, an image generator, has also seen many questions raised about the ethics and impact of the new powerful tools.

Even Sam Altman, the CEO of ChatGPT’s creator OpenAI, has raised the alarm a number of times about the sudden rise of AI, recently stating that the world may not be “that far from potentially scary” AI tools.

Responding to that warning at the time, some AI experts told Euronews Next that rather than “potentially scary” applications being around the corner, we are currently living in a “dystopic present” thanks to the proliferation of AI.

Sarah Myers West, Managing Director of the AI Now Institute, said that today "in many senses, that’s already where we are," with AI systems exacerbating "longstanding patterns of inequality," especially in areas such as job applications and education.

The open letter, released on March 28, had 1,123 signatures at the time of this article’s publication, including the author Yuval Noah Harari, and the Turing prize winner Yoshua Bengio.

It states that AI could be about to profoundly change the trajectory of life on Earth, and it “should be planned for and managed with commensurate care and resources” - something which the authors argue isn’t happening.

Warning that machines could “flood our information channels with propaganda,” or take away “all the jobs,” making humans “obsolete,” the authors ask: “Should we risk loss of control of our civilisation?”

They then call for oversight, so that these decisions are not left in the hands of tech leaders.

This oversight should include shared safety protocols that are overseen by independent experts.

AI developers should also work with policymakers to “dramatically accelerate development of robust AI governance systems,” they add.

‘300 million jobs exposed’

A memo from multinational investment bank Goldman Sachs meanwhile has revealed the large-scale economic impact of AI, according to the bank’s research team.

They estimate that AI could take over up to a quarter of all current work, which would expose the equivalent of 300 million full-time jobs to automation.

The good news, according to the memo, is that “worker displacement from automation has historically been offset by creation of new jobs, and the emergence of new occupations following technological innovations accounts for the vast majority of long-run employment growth”.


The labour cost-savings and higher productivity for non-displaced workers could mean “a productivity boom that raises economic growth substantially,” it added.

For example, they estimate a boost to global labour productivity that could raise annual global GDP by 7 per cent.

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