As Elon Musk Calls For A ‘Pause’ On AI Development, Will The AI Wars Reach A Temporary Truce?

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Key takeaways

  • Future of Life Institute backed by Elon Musk, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and DeepMind engineers has called for an immediate pause on developing advanced AIs
  • OpenAI founder Sam Altman and Microsoft founder Bill Gates have both warned about AI advancements, but companies have been rewarded with stock price bumps
  • No legal or regulatory framework for AI exists as of yet

Could the AI wars come to a crashing halt? Yes, if Elon Musk gets his way. The billionaire, other tech leaders and AI engineers have published an open letter calling for an immediate six-month pause in progressing AI tech, so regulation can come in.

OpenAI and Bill Gates have warned on the risks of AI, so everyone’s singing from the same hymn sheet, but the Future of Life Institute has taken things a step further. The question is – will Big Tech pay attention? Let’s look at what the letter said, whether AI risks going off the rails and what it means for investors.

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What does the open letter say?

Elon Musk is not pulling punches when it comes to AI development. He and almost 1300 other AI experts and researchers have published an open letter calling for all AI labs to immediately pause “the training of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4”,

OpenAI’s latest chatbot iteration, until regulatory frameworks are established.

According to the letter, the pause should be for at least six months, include ‘all key actors’ publicly announcing their intentions and involve government intervention should the pause not happen quickly.

The letter was published by the Future of Life Institute, which lists Elon as an external advisor on its website. The letter has been signed by top leaders in the field alongside Musk including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Stability AI founder Emad Mostaque and hundreds of other engineers from DeepMind, Amazon
, Meta and Microsoft.

What have other leaders said about AI?

While the call to action is something other commentaries from the likes of Bill Gates and Sam Altman have lacked, all have warned that developing AI needs to be done with an abundance of caution.

The open letter cites Sam Altman’s blog from February this year, where the OpenAI founder discusses the need for government intervention in AI training. He said “it may be important to get independent review before starting to train future systems, and for the most advanced efforts to agree to limit the rate of growth of compute used for creating new models”.

Bill Gates, the former CEO of Microsoft, had a more upbeat tone in his letter on AI. He singled out education, climate change and healthcare as some of the industries AI had the potential to transform.

But he, too, warned about the need for caution in building AI, saying a lack of safeguards around AGI could have devastating consequences for humankind. “The world needs to establish the rules of the road so that any downsides of artificial intelligence are far outweighed by its benefits,” he wrote.

Computing giant Microsoft has a $10 billion partnership with OpenAI and has become a surprise leader in the space. Its stock price has climbed 17% since the start of the year to hit highs of $280.

What recent developments have there been in AI?

What’s prompted the open letter is tech companies’ race to outpace one another as this exciting new technology develops.

Google’s Bard AI has now launched, with UK and US users able to sign up to try the ChatGPT competitor. Google has also announced it will be integrating Bard into its Google apps like Sheets, Docs and Meet, but there’s no timescale on that release.

The search engine titan has been chasing Microsoft since its OpenAI announcement.

Microsoft has been announcing AI-infused upgrades to its suite of products at a dizzying pace thanks to its OpenAI investment.

Its newest launch is Microsoft Security Pilot, an AI-powered cybersecurity tool for businesses. Microsoft stock was up 1.5% after the announcement.

Chinese tech company Baidu “pulled a Google” with a rocky launch for its Ernie AI chatbot, with shares dropping 10% on the same day. The share price quickly recovered after it was announced 30,000 companies had signed up to the service, with the stock rallying 14%.

Adobe and Nvidia announced their continued partnership to release Adobe’s generative AI platform, Firefly, which is set to augment its Photoshop and Illustrator tools among others. Adobe stock rose 3.1% after the announcement and Nvidia also saw a 1.2% bump.

It’s been a rocky ride for tech companies developing a ‘future tech’ during an economic downturn. One wrong move and the share prices have come tumbling down, as we saw with Google’s Bard launch. But on the flip side, those who have debuted strong AI products and partnerships have been rewarded with share price bumps.

Should AI development slow down?

The open letter isn’t calling for a complete ban, stating, “This does not mean a pause on AI development in general, merely a stepping back from the dangerous race to ever-larger unpredictable black-box models with emergent capabilities.”

There’s no denying there’s a distinct lack of AI regulatory framework. The UK has rejected plans for an AI-specific regulator this week, instead opting for its existing regulators to adopt AI principles guidance. The EU and US are said to be consulting on the matter, but as it stands no AI legislation exists.

At this stage, the public has experienced a taste of how AI can speed up workflows and help with productivity thanks to ChatGPT, Microsoft Bing and Google Bard. Wall Street also expects to see further development from bigger companies as the AI start-ups have already produced the goods.

Pressing the pause button gives companies and government time to address concerns around privacy, algorithmic bias and regulation—and gives the public a chance to get used to AI.

From an investment perspective, it’s likely companies that take a long-term view on AI regulation will fare better when it inevitably comes in. Wall Street will be keeping an eye on those who prioritize AI safety sooner rather than later.

The bottom line

While the tone of the letter is decidedly doom and gloom, it’s to draw attention to the potential risks of developing AI. It sounds like science fiction right now, but the top minds in the field think of it as an inevitability—and so want the brakes on now before the train falls off the tracks.

Governments tend to be slow in dealing with emerging tech, but if they can be convinced of the threat then we could well see a pause take place.

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