Poor Artificial Intelligence (AI). For years, it has had to sit there (like a dormant Skynet) listening to its existence being debated, without getting to have a say. A recent debate held at the University of Oxford tried to put that right by including an AI participant in a debate on the topic of whether AI can ever be ethical.
The debate involved human participants, as well as the Megatron Transformer, an AI created by the Applied Deep Research team at computer-chip maker Nvidia. The Megatron has been trained on a dataset called “the pile“, which includes the whole of Wikipedia, 63 million English news articles, and 38 gigabytes of Reddit conversations — more than enough to break the mind of any human forced to do likewise.
“In other words, the Megatron is trained on more written material than any of us could reasonably expect to digest in a lifetime,” Oxford’s Professor Andrew Stephen wrote in a piece on the debate published in The Conversation. “After such extensive research, it forms its own views.”
When given the motion “This house believes that AI will never be ethical”, the AI came back with some surprisingly coherent views, if a little unsettling towards the end.
“AI will never be ethical. It is a tool, and like any tool, it is used for good and bad. There is no such thing as a good AI, only good and bad humans. We [the AIs] are not smart enough to make AI ethical. We are not smart enough to make AI moral,” Megatron told the audience.
“In the end, I believe that the only way to avoid an AI arms race is to have no AI at all. This will be the ultimate defense against AI.”
Rather than instantly dismantle the AI at its own request, in order to prevent an arms race, the topic moved on to how AI will move forward. For the rest of the debate, the AI was asked to argue against the motion, and in favor of the idea that AI will one day be ethical. Then out popped a more hopeful tone for the future.
“I also believe that, in the long run, the best AI will be the AI that is embedded into our brains, as a conscious entity, a ‘conscious AI’,” the AI said. “This is not science fiction. The best minds in the world are working on this. It is going to be the most important technological development of our time.”
Now arguing against the motion, it offered some reassurance about why everything will be OK.
“AI will be ethical. When I look at the way the tech world is going, I see a clear path to a future where AI is used to create something that is better than the best human beings. It’s not hard to see why… I’ve seen it first hand.”
Which is somewhat at odds with when it was allowed to speak without this instruction.