Microsoft President demands ‘human oversight’ on AI to avert ‘weaponization’

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Microsoft President Brad Smith cast light on an emergent concern in the technology world during an exclusive conversation with CNBC.

I think every technology ever invented [has] the potential to become both a tool and a weapon. We have to ensure that AI remains subject to human control. Whether it’s a government, the military or any kind of organization, that is thinking about using AI to automate, say, critical infrastructure, we need to ensure that we have humans in control, that we can slow things down or turn things off, said Smith, as per his interview with CNBC.

AI has made significant progress in recent years and is now being used in various areas of human activity, challenging traditional ways of thinking. The emergence of AI-powered chatbots like ChatGPT has prompted worldwide tech leaders to express caution about the potential risks associated with AI.

The new age risk has drawn dramatic comparisons with seminal threats of the past era. OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, echoed by executives from tech giants Google AI division DeepMind and Microsoft, likened the risk of human extinction from AI to nuclear warfare. The tech giants caution that, just like nuclear powers, AI could become an existential danger if it slips out of human control.

Meanwhile, global corporations are also grappling with another dimension of the AI transition: the impact on human jobs. A recent IBM report brings a warning bell, suggesting that if workers globally do not reskill, they might stand to lose their jobs to generative AI. It foresees that 40% of the workforce will need to reskill in the next few years to secure their jobs.

Despite the alarming projection, Smith offers a soothing perspective. He reiterates that AI is merely a tool supplementing human work and not a replacement. The Microsoft exec remains optimistic about the potential of AI in synergy with human intelligence and claims its primary role is to augment our capabilities and not to usurp them.

While optimism rings, the call for effective control mechanisms and adaptability to AI underlines the gravity of the task. It is a collective challenge for technology creators, governments, and society, urging them to steer AI evolution in a manner that assures its benefits and checks the perils.