MIT Researcher: Don’t Ignore the Possibility That AI Is Becoming Conscious

MIT Researcher: Don’t Ignore the Possibility That AI Is Becoming Conscious

“Seeing so many prominent [machine learning] folks ridiculing this idea is disappointing.”

Amid a maelstrom set off by a prominent AI researcher saying that some AI may already be achieving limited consciousness, one MIT AI researcher is saying the concept might not be so far-fetched.

Our story starts with Ilya Sutskever, head scientist at the Elon Musk cofounded research group OpenAI. On February 9, Sutskever tweeted that “it may be that today’s large neural networks are slightly conscious.”

In response, many others in the AI research space decried the OpenAI scientist’s claim, suggesting that it was harming machine learning’s reputation and amounted to little more than a “sales pitch” for OpenAI’s work.

That backlash has now generated its own clapback from MIT computer scientist Tamay Besiroglu, who’s now bucking the trend by coming to Sutskever’s defense.

“Seeing so many prominent [machine learning] folks ridiculing this idea is disappointing,” Besiroglu tweeted. “It makes me less hopeful in the field’s ability to seriously take on some of the profound, weird and important questions that they’ll undoubtedly be faced with over the next few decades.”

“I don’t actually think we can draw a clear line between models that are ‘not conscious’ vs ‘maybe slightly conscious,’” he said in a followup message. “I’m also not sure any of these models are conscious.”

“That said, I do think the question could be a meaningful one that shouldn’t just be neglected,” he added.

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