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Humanity at risk: AI pioneer urges federal government to regulate faster

One of the so-called godfathers of artificial intelligence says governments need to move faster on regulations to protect against the dangers of the rapidly advancing technology, before it poses a larger threat to humanity.

Yoshua Bengio — who is also the founder and scientific director of the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms — told CTV’s Question Period host Vassy Kapelos in an interview airing Sunday, some artificial intelligence technologies are getting closer to matching the intelligence level of humans. And it’s happening much sooner than anyone anticipated, he added.

When asked whether he shares the concerns of some that the technology matching human intelligence puts humanity at risk, Bengio answered an unequivocal “yes.”

“And it's been difficult, in some sense, to shift my views on this,” he said. “If you've been working on something for decades, and you've built your whole career and motivation on the idea that you would bring good to the world — and indeed AI is bringing a lot of good … but now you start realizing that there are much greater dangers than we even thought about, things that I thought about a few years ago, it's challenging.

“But I think we have also a responsibility, when we are scientists in this area, to look at things in a neutral way, not just our emotions about it,” he also said. “And if we if we think that there is a risk and danger, we need to engage with everyone—citizens, other experts outside of AI, and governments—so that we can better understand what are the potential bad scenarios and how we can prevent them?”

Bengio said as some systems, such as ChatGPT, evolve, they could pass as human in an online conversation, which poses certain risks.

“That's where it gets dangerous,” he said. “They could easily propagate disinformation in a way that's much more powerful than we already have with social media.”

Bengio said one of the concerns is that artificial intelligence technology is advancing faster than the speed of government and the speed at which officials can develop policies to protect people and society from these risks.

“I really didn't expect that it would come so quickly,” he said. “I thought that the level of competence we see now may happen in 20 or 50 years, if you had asked me just a few years ago, but of course, in the last years, we've seen the acceleration coming along.”

According to The Canadian Press, the federal privacy commissioner, along with three of his provincial counterparts, is investigating the increasingly popular artificial intelligence-powered chatbot, ChatGPT, following a complaint alleging the program collected, used, and disclosed personal information without consent.

Meanwhile several key figures in the artificial intelligence industry, including Bengio, are asking the companies developing new programs to press pause until governments figure out how to regulate it.

“In the short term, one of the easy but important things we need to do is to make it very difficult, illegal, and punish very strongly, to impersonate humans,” he said. “So when a user is interacting with an AI, it has to be very clear that it's an AI.”

“In fact, we should even know like where it comes from, like which company made it,” he added. “So counterfeiting humans should be as bad as counterfeiting money.”

Yoshua Bengio discusses the risks of artificial intelligence and the need to regulate it in the video at the top of this article.



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