The Godfather in Conversation: Why Geoffrey Hinton is worried about the future of AI 

“It’s a time of huge uncertainty,” says Geoffrey Hinton from the living room of his home in London. “Nobody really knows what’s going to happen … I’m just sounding the alarm.” 

In The Godfather in Conversation, the cognitive psychologist and computer scientist ‘known as the Godfather of AI’ explains why, after a lifetime spent developing a type of artificial intelligence known as deep learning, he is suddenly warning about existential threats to humanity. 

A University of Toronto University Professor Emeritus, Hinton explains how neural nets work, the role he and others played in developing them and why the kind of digital intelligence that powers ChatGPT and Google’s PaLM may hold an unexpected advantage over our own. And he lays out his concerns about how the world could lose control of a technology that, paradoxically, also promises to unleash huge benefits – from treating diseases to combatting climate change. 

“Maybe when they become smarter than us, we’ll be able to keep them benevolent and we will be able to keep them caring much more about people than they care about themselves – unlike people,” Hinton says.  

“But maybe not.” 

Hinton also offers advice to young researchers entering the field – including students at U of T, where the responsible and ethical development of AI is supported by the Schwartz Reisman Institute for Technology and Society and many other research initiatives. 

“Look at how many people are working on making these things better and how many people are working on preventing them from getting out of control,” Hinton says, noting the ratio is tilted heavily toward the former, particularly at big tech companies. 

“Where could you make the most impact?” 

Watch The Godfather in Conversation