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AI Ethics Under Scrutiny as MIT’s Picard & Tegmark Warn Against Hubris & Financial Motives in AI Development

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AI Ethics Under Scrutiny as MIT’s Picard & Tegmark Warn Against Hubris & Financial Motives in AI Development

Typically — but not always — AI reflects the ethical perspectives of its developers, who are predominantly white males and often exhibit the wisdom and maturity associated with adolescent boys, traits that frequently persist into adulthood.

Rosalind Picard and Max Tegmark delved into the ethical challenges surrounding this problem and others in artificial intelligence (AI) development recently in a Veritas Forum discussion moderated by Father Philip Larrey, a professor at Boston College.

Picard warned that we should not be “deceived” if AI systems claim rights, urging to “look at who is benefiting financially” from such claims. She stated: “if the robot or the agent starts tugging on your heartstrings about how it should have rights, look at who is benefiting financially, follow the money.”

Tegmark highlighted humanity’s past arrogance in developing potentially hazardous technologies without foresight, drawing a parallel with the myth of Icarus:

“The ancient Greeks already warned us about hubris and the story of Icarus who ruined it all,” said Tegmark. He advocates pausing unsafe AI development until we better understand the risks: “I would put a moratorium on, building a digital God for at least another ten years or so until we can understand better the risks.”

Both stressed the need for ethical AI aligned with human values. Picard noted: “We need you to take your brilliance and innovate things that hopefully make the world better.” Tegmark urged developing “AI that empowers us rather than overpowers us, that complements us rather than replaces us.”

The two believe AI development brings ethical risks that developers must proactively address to avoid threats to human dignity and wellbeing, noting that unchecked pursuit of increasingly powerful AI could lead to catastrophic consequences if development outraces society’s ability to align AI with human values. They, like others, are convinced responsible AI requires ethical principles, democratic accountability and prioritizing beneficial AI that empowers rather than replaces humans.

Featured image: Credit: The Veritas Forum