A scientist dubbed the ‘Godfather of AI’ has quit Google after a decade to speak freely about the dangers of artificial intelligence.

Dr Geoffrey Hinton told the New York Times that Google had been a “proper steward” of AI but that responsible approach changed last year once Microsoft added a chatbot to its Bing search engine – based on OpenAI’s ChatGPT – and Google sought to safeguard its core business.

Google released chatbot Bard this year in response to ChatGPT.

Dr Hinton, 75, said: “I’ve come to the conclusion that the kind of intelligence we’re developing is very different from the intelligence we have. 

“So it’s as if you had 10,000 people and whenever one person learned something, everybody automatically knew it. And that’s how these chatbots can know so much more than any one person.”

The British-Canadian computer scientist added to the BBC: “Right now, what we’re seeing is things like GPT-4 eclipses a person in the amount of general knowledge it has and it eclipses them by a long way. In terms of reasoning, it’s not as good, but it does already do simple reasoning.

“And given the rate of progress, we expect things to get better quite fast. So we need to worry about that.”

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Dr Hinton built a neural net in 2012 with two of his students at the University of Toronto, which paved the way for the likes of ChatGPT.

He and dozens of people working in AI – including his fellow 2018 Turing Award winners Yoshua Bengio and Yann LeCun – signed an open letter in March calling for a pause on AI development to allow for the design and implementation of safety measures.

Describing developments to the BBC as “quite scary”, he added: “It’s able to produce lots of text automatically so you can get lots of very effective spambots. It will allow authoritarian leaders to manipulate their electorates, things like that.”

He is also concerned about the “existential risk of what happens when these things get more intelligent than us” and the ability of AI to replace jobs like paralegals and personal assistants.

Google’s chief scientist Jeff Dean stated: “I’ve deeply enjoyed our many conversations over the years. I’ll miss him, and I wish him well.

“As one of the first companies to publish AI principles, we remain committed to a responsible approach to AI. We’re continually learning to understand emerging risks while also innovating boldly.”

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