Nick Clegg: Focus on present AI dangers, not future ones

  • Sir Nick Clegg says the UK AI Safety Summit is wasting time overreacting to speculative AI risks.
  • Clegg says attention should be focused on present risks like AI’s potential for election interference.
  • He compares the excessive AI pessimism to panic over inventions like the bicycle and the internet.

Meta’s President of Global Affairs Sir Nick Clegg warned that the UK AI Safety Summit will likely waste time on speculative AI risks instead of real current dangers.

Clegg said the danger that generative AI poses to upcoming elections should be the main focus of discussions at the summit which UK PM Rishi Sunak will head.

Discussion documents for the summit speak of an “existential threat” that AI could pose to humanity but Clegg feels this is an overblown distraction from more immediate risks.

“If you spend that much time worrying about something that’s out there, you spend less time worrying about stuff right here in front of you,” Clegg said.

Highlighting a common knee-jerk reaction to innovation, Clegg said governments often “have a tendency to overreact when new technologies come about, to assume the very worst about them.”

As evidence of this, he pointed to the “moral panic” associated with computer games in the 80’s, and inventions like the bicycle, the radio, and the internet.

Speaking to the risk of stifling AI development he warned, “There is a real danger that you put the cart before the horse in that you develop evermore sort of hand-waving new institutions and restrictions and limitations and governance powers to intrude in this and limit that before the technology’s even emerged.”

Yann LeCun, Meta’s chief AI scientist, shares Clegg’s views but says there are nefarious motives behind the stoking of AI fears.

While Meta pursues its controversial “open source” approach, LeCun says the big AI players want to use overregulation to retain their AI hegemony.

Clegg will participate at the summit and will be joined by other big names like Elon Musk and US VP Kamala Harris.

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