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Artificial intelligence teaching itself things, independent of programmer

Pichai has long argued for wide-ranging global regulation of AI.

Sundar Pichai

Google CEO Sundar Pichai | Photo: PTI

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Concerns about artificial intelligence (AI) developing skills independently of its programmers’ wishes have long absorbed scientists, ethicists, and science fiction writers. A recent interview with Google’s executives may be adding to those worries. In an interview on CBS’s 60 Minutes on April 16, James Manyika, Google’s senior vice-president of technology and society, discussed how one of the company’s AI systems taught itself Bengali, even though it wasn’t trained to know the language. “We discovered that with very few amounts of prompting in Bengali, it can now translate all of Bengali,” he said.

Sundar Pichai, chief executive officer (CEO), Google confirmed that there are still elements of how AI systems learn and behave that still surprises the experts: “There is an aspect of this which we call — all of us in the field call it as a ‘black box’. You don’t fully understand. And you can’t quite tell why it said this.” The CEO said the company has “some ideas” why this could be the case, but it needs more research to fully comprehend how it works.

CBS’s Scott Pelley then questioned the reasoning for opening to the public a system that its own developers don’t fully understand, but Pichai responded: “I don’t think we fully understand how a human mind works either.”

Google’s cure to AI’s hallucination problem

AI’s development has also come with glaring flaws that lead to fake news, deepfakes, and weaponisation, sometimes with so much confidence, in what the industry calls “hallucinations.” Asked if Google’s Bard is getting a lot of “hallucinations,” Pichai responded: “Yes, you know, which is expected. No one in the field has yet solved the hallucination problems. All models do have this as an issue.” 

Pichai has long argued for wide-ranging global regulation of AI. Other tech leaders, like Twitter and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, have even called for a pause in the development of more powerful models.  Sundar Pichai also said ‘every product of every company’ will be impacted by the quick development of AI, warning that society needs to prepare for technologies like the ones it’s already launched.

Asked in the interview about what keeps him up at night with regard to AI, Pichai said “the urgency to work and deploy it in a beneficial way, but at the same time it can be very harmful if deployed wrongly.

EU lawmakers call for summit on control of ‘very powerful’ AI

EU lawmakers urged world leaders on Monday to hold a summit to agree guiding principles for the control and deployment of powerful artificial intelligence, saying it was developing faster than many had expected.

The 12 MEPs, all working on upcoming EU legislation on the technology, said US President Joe Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen should call the top-level meeting.

The statement came less than three weeks after Twitter owner Elon Musk and more than 1,000 technology figures demanded a six-month pause in the development of systems following in the footsteps of Microsoft-backed OpenAI’s ChatGPT.

That open letter, published in March by the Future of Life Institute, had warned that AI could spread misinformation at an unprecedented rate, and that machines could ‘outnumber, outsmart, obsolete, and replace’ humans, if left unchecked. (REUTERS)


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First Published: Apr 18 2023 | 12:19 AM IST

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