Yoshua Bengio joins hundreds of signatories in open letter pleading for safer AI systems

Picture of Yoshua Bengio

Hundreds of key players in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) and technology, including Yoshua Bengio, Founder and Scientific Director of Mila - Quebec AI Institute co-signed on March 29, 2023  an open letter initiated by the Future of Life Institute to ask AI labs to immediately halt training of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4 for at least six months. 

The open letter, titled “Pause Giant AI Experiments”, states that AI systems with intelligence that can rival human intelligence can pose serious threats to society and humanity, and that “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.” 

But it stops short of saying all AI development is dangerous or should be halted. Instead, it calls for “merely a stepping back from the dangerous race to ever-larger unpredictable black-box models with emergent capabilities.”

The six-month pause should thus be used to develop and implement a set of protocols to make these powerful AI systems more accurate, transparent, and trustworthy.

Following the release of the letter, Yoshua Bengio and representatives of the Future of Life Institute held a virtual press conference to emphasize their commitment to safe AI systems for the benefit of all. 

Despite the positive potential of AI tools in fields like health or the environment, “I’m concerned that powerful tools can also have negative uses, and society is not ready to deal with that,” Yoshua Bengio said during the press conference.

“Let’s slow down. Let’s make sure that we develop better guardrails, let’s make sure that we discuss these questions internationally just like we’ve done for nuclear power and nuclear weapons. Let’s make sure we better understand these very large systems, that we improve on their robustness and the process by which we can audit them and verify that they are safe for the public,” he added. 

But he also cautioned that “six months is not going to be enough for society to find all the solutions to deal with those risks, but we have to start somewhere. We have to raise the flag, we need to pause, we need to think, we need to work around solutions and governance.” 

“This is just the beginning. We will need more ambitious and more thought-out proposals as we move forward.”

The full open letter is available here

Full press conference is available here.