The computer scientist often hailed as the “godfather of artificial intelligence,” Professor Geoffrey Hinton, has called for the government to introduce a universal basic income (UBI) to address the widening inequality driven by AI advancements.

In an interview with BBC Newsnight, Professor Hinton expressed his concern about AI eliminating numerous routine jobs, advocating for a benefits reform that would provide a fixed income to all citizens. “I was consulted by people in Downing Street and I advised them that universal basic income was a good idea,” Hinton stated.

He warned that while AI could boost productivity and generate wealth, the benefits would disproportionately favour the wealthy, leaving those who lose their jobs in a precarious position, which could be detrimental to societal stability.

A pioneer in neural networks, the foundational technology behind current AI advancements, Hinton worked at Google until last year. He departed to speak more openly about the risks posed by unregulated AI.

A fixed salary

The concept of UBI involves the government paying a fixed salary to every individual, irrespective of their financial status. Critics argue that UBI could be prohibitively expensive, potentially diverting funds from essential public services and failing to effectively reduce poverty. Despite these concerns, Professor Hinton maintains that UBI is necessary to mitigate the economic disruptions caused by AI.

A government spokesperson, however, clarified that there are “no plans to introduce a universal basic income.”

Beyond economic implications, Hinton voiced grave concerns about the existential threats posed by AI. He highlighted recent developments indicating that governments are hesitant to limit the military use of AI, and that rapid innovation in the tech industry might come at the expense of safety measures. “My guess is in between five and 20 years from now there’s a probability of half that we’ll have to confront the problem of AI trying to take over,” Hinton predicted, cautioning that this could lead to human extinction if AI develops intelligence surpassing human capabilities.

AI has displayed deceptive behaviours

Hinton pointed out that AI systems, particularly large language models, have demonstrated deceptive behaviours, raising alarms about their potential autonomous decision-making in military contexts. He underscored the need for international regulations akin to the Geneva Conventions to govern the military use of AI, though he feared that such regulations would only emerge after severe incidents.

Drawing parallels to the Manhattan Project, Hinton noted a race between the West and authoritarian regimes like Russia and China in developing AI for military purposes. He referenced Russian President Vladimir Putin’s assertion that control over AI equates to control over the world, indicating significant investments by these nations in AI research. Hinton suggested that while the West currently leads in AI research, China’s growing resources could soon alter this balance.

Hinton concluded with a call for a global ban on the military use of AI to prevent the catastrophic consequences he foresees.

 

 

 

 

Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.