Meet Pause AI, the Protest Group Campaigning Against Human Extinction


The primary time we converse, Joep Meindertsma is just not in a great place. He tears up as he describes a dialog wherein he warned his niece concerning the threat of synthetic intelligence inflicting societal collapse. Afterward, she had a panic assault. “I cry each different day,” he says, talking over Zoom from his residence within the Dutch metropolis of Utrecht. “Each time I say goodbye to my dad and mom or mates, it feels prefer it could possibly be the final time.”

Meindertsma, who’s 31 and co-owns a database firm, has been taken with AI for a few years. However he actually began worrying concerning the menace the expertise might pose to humanity when Open AI launched its newest language mannequin, GPT-4, in March. Since then, he has watched the runaway success of ChatGPT chatbot—primarily based first on GPT-3 then GPT-4—reveal to the world how far AI has progressed and Huge Tech firms race to catch up. And he has seen pioneers like Geoffrey Hinton, the so-called godfather of AI, warn of the risks related to the techniques they helped create. “AI capabilities are advancing way more quickly than just about anybody has predicted,” says Meindertsma. “We’re risking social collapse. We’re risking human extinction.”

One month earlier than our discuss, Meindertsma stopped going to work. He had change into so consumed by the concept that AI goes to destroy human civilization that he was struggling to consider the rest. He needed to do one thing, he felt, to avert catastrophe. Quickly after, he launched Pause AI, a grassroots protest group that campaigns for, as its title suggests, a halt to the event of AI. And since then, he has amassed a small band of followers who’ve held protests in Brussels, London, San Francisco and Melbourne. These demonstrations have been small—fewer than 10 folks every time—however Meindertsma has been making mates in excessive locations. Already, he says, he has been invited to talk with officers inside each the Dutch Parliament and on the European Fee.

The concept AI might wipe out humanity sounds excessive. Nevertheless it’s an concept that’s gaining traction in each the tech sector and in mainstream politics. Hinton give up his function at Google in Might and launched into a world spherical of interviews wherein he raised the specter of people not having the ability to management AI because the expertise advances. That very same month, trade leaders—together with the CEOs of AI labs Google DeepMind, OpenAI, and Anthropic—signed a letter acknowledging the “threat of extinction,” and UK prime minister Rishi Sunak turned the primary head of presidency to publicly admit he additionally believes that AI poses an existential threat to humanity.

Meindertsma and his followers provide a glimpse of how these warnings are trickling by way of society, creating a brand new phenomenon of AI anxiousness and giving a youthful technology—a lot of whom are already deeply fearful about local weather change—a brand new cause to really feel panic concerning the future. A survey by the pollster YouGov discovered that the proportion of individuals fearful that synthetic intelligence would result in an apocalypse rose sharply within the final yr. Hinton denies he desires AI growth to be stopped, quickly or indefinitely. However his public statements, concerning the threat AI poses to humanity, have resulted in a bunch of younger individuals who really feel there isn’t any different alternative.

To completely different folks, “existential threat” means various things. “The primary situation I am personally fearful about is social collapse because of large-scale hacking,” says Meindertsma, explaining he’s involved about AI getting used to create low-cost and accessible cyber weapons that could possibly be utilized by criminals to “successfully take out the whole web.” It is a situation specialists say is extraordinarily unlikely. However Meindertsma nonetheless worries concerning the resilience of banking and meals distribution companies. “Folks won’t be able to search out meals in a metropolis. Folks will struggle,” he says. “Many billions I believe will die.”

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