Musk’s proposed AI pause means China would ‘race’ past US with ‘most powerful’ tech, expert says
Elon Musk’s proposed temporary halt in AI development would give China the freedom to surpass the U.S. and develop “the most powerful tool” in the 21st century, according to an industry expert.
“We need artificial intelligence to automate and manage so much of the existing technology, as well as open the ability for us to manage a significantly larger population,” Sultan Meghji, a professor at Duke University’s Pratt Engineering School, told Fox News Digital. “We will not be able to do that without artificial intelligence.”
“As we consider our global competition with the People’s Republic of China and others,” Meghji, who served as the first chief innovation officer for the FDIC, argued, “artificial intelligence is the most powerful tool in our toolbox, and I don’t want to lose the 21st century to the Chinese.”
Musk joined over 1000 signatories – including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, among other tech leaders and artificial intelligence experts – to call for a six-month pause on the development of “powerful” AI systems.
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The letter asks AI developers to “immediately pause for at least 6 months the training of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4.”
“Powerful AI systems should be developed only once we are confident that their effects will be positive and their risks will be manageable,” the letter said, but Meghji, who has no intention of signing the letter, accused the signatories of acting more in their own self-interest “than in the interest of our civilization.”
“We have never in our species been able to limit the development of technology when we choose to do so, and we as a civilization have decided to invest in this technology,” he explained, saying that he would rather ensure that the work continues in a “responsible, open, transparent and valuable way.”
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One of the tasks he tackled during his time at the FDIC was to figure out how to integrate tech such as AI into every facet of operations, from simple jobs like handling email and chats on government-issued phones to seeing how AI could help look for weaknesses in the banking system.
Meghji quit the role after just one year, citing pervasive “technophobia” throughout the federal agency.
“What I was asked to do by the chairman of the FDIC was limited by the organization’s fear and lack of understanding of technology,” he said, adding that it seemed officials thought “what they had learned to do in the 1980s was the right way to do things and that the world hasn’t changed since then.”
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The same fear he saw at the FDIC is playing into the current AI conversation and preventing the public from realizing the good that the technology can create.
“I believe AI is a very broad area and like any tool or technology and all of human civilization, it can be used for good or evil, and that simply by worrying about the evil that it can do, we are ignoring the significantly broader benefits that it can hold,” Meghji said.
He acknowledged that there is a reasonable fear that AI develops “exclusively for commercial gain without regards to anything else,” much like how the internet turned from “fundamentally the greatest information resource in all of human history” into “an advertising platform targeting teenagers.”
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But he stressed that while he has sympathy for those suffering a “very powerful” fear of change due to AI, including the potential elimination of some jobs, part of the job of civilization is to make sure people manage the introduction of new technology “in thoughtful ways.”
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