Aussie academics join push to pause AI training beyond GPT-4

Australian academics and researchers have joined tech billionaire Elon Musk, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and more than 1000 others in calling for a moratorium of at least six months on training AI systems that are “more powerful than GPT-4”.

In an open letter issued by the US not-for-profit Future of Life Institute, the signatories have united in support of a pause on generative AI development until the risks posed by the emerging technology are better understood.

“Powerful AI systems should be developed only once we are confident that their effects will be positive and their risks will be manageable. This confidence must be well justified and increase with the magnitude of a system’s potential effects,” the letter reads.

“Therefore, we call on all AI labs to immediately pause for at least six months the training of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4. This pause should be public and verifiable, and include all key actors. If such a pause cannot be enacted quickly, governments should step in.”

The signatories believe AI labs and independent experts should use this time to “jointly develop and implement a set of shared safety protocols for advanced AI design and development”, which they say are currently lacking.

“Advanced AI could represent a profound change in the history of life on Earth, and should be planned for and managed with commensurate care and resources,” the letter said.

“Unfortunately, this level of planning and management is not happening, even though recent months have seen AI labs 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.”

The open letter, which was first published less than a week after ChatGPT’s successor GPT-4 was launched by Open AI, has gained traction since last week, with 1125 signatures recorded by late on Wednesday.

It follows six months of significant change sparked by ChatGPT, leading to an arms race between Big Tech companies like Google and Microsoft, who are now planning to embed sophisticated AI tools in everyday productivity tools.

Signatories to the open letter include Tesla chief executive Elon Musk, who is a co-founder of OpenAI but recently took to Twitter to criticise it for becoming a “maximum profit company effectively controlled by Microsoft”.

Despite co-founding OpenAI, Mr Musk has consistently spoken out against AI over the last decade, describing it as “our biggest existential threat” in 2014 and calling for greater regulation to tame the “demon” in 2017.

Other signatories to the letter are Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Israeli historian and Sapiens author Yuval Noah Harari and Pintrest co-founder Evan Sharp. A handful staff  from Google, Microsoft, Facebook and DeepMind have also signed.

Australian signatories are largely from the Australian National University and the University of Melbourne, but the University of Sydney, Macquarie University, Western Sydney University, Deakin University and Swinburne University of Technology are also represented.

The signatories from Australian universities and government agencies are:

  • Professor Kimberlee Weatherall – Professor of Law, University of Sydney, and a chief investigator with the ARC Centre of Excellence on Automated Decision-Making and Society
  • Professor Michael Gillings – Professor of Molecular Evolution, Macquarie University
  • Professor Andrew Francis, Professor of Mathematics, Western Sydney University
  • Professor Andrew Robinson, chief executive of the University of Melbourne’s Centre of Excellence for Biosecurity Risks Analysis
  • Professor Zbigniew H. Stachurski, former Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Australian National University (ANU)
  • Professor Peter Vamplew, Professor of Information Technology, Federation University
  • Professor Richard Dazeley, Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, Deakin University
  • Professor Peter Christen, ANU College of Engineering, Computing and Cybernetics
  • Professor and Australian Research Council Future Fellow Seth Lazar, ANU Machine Intelligence and Normative Theory Lab
  • Dr Terrence Mernagh, ANU
  • Dr Matthew Mitchell, Swinburne University of Technology
  • Matthew Farrugia-Roberts, research assistant in Human-Computer Interaction, University of Melbourne
  • Colin G. Hales, PhD in neuroscience research fellow, University of Melbourne
  • Professor and Australian Academy of Science Fellow David Balding, University of Melbourne,
  • Gordon W German, senior research engineer, CSIRO
  • Geoffrey Kelly, University of Melbourne

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

1 Comment
  1. Roger Buhlert 1 year ago

    As someone who has worked in the records and information management world and having extensive experience in the electronic and digital world and worked in an early adopter environment of machine learning, I wholeheartedly agree with Elon Musk and Steve Wozniack here and with all the other signatories. Politicians ,regulators and the public need to fully understand the implications of AI on the world. Even more that it should be controlled and managed in the hands of a monopoly/ group of monopolies/ governments. Do not get me wrong, aspects of its use particularly in the field of medicine have been amazing but its potential to alter the way humanity operates , for good and not so good , is astounding.

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