The Rise of Digital Minds – How The Public Perceives AI

Jacy Reese Anthis, co-founder of the Sentience Institute and well-known for his book ‘The End of Animal Farming,’ believes that AI is transforming every aspect of our social lives and might surpass human capabilities within our lifetime. At the Cypher 2023, India’s largest AI conference, Anthis explored a fascinating topic: The Rise of Digital Minds.

The Rise of Digital Minds
The Rise of Digital Minds

The Rise of Digital Minds

Given the recent advancements in generative AI, such as Google’s Lamda displaying signs of sentience, ChatGPT, and the influential AI researcher Geoffrey Hinton leaving Google to raise awareness about the risks of AI, a lot has been happening in the field. Anthis pointed out that there is a sense that we are witnessing something radically new in technology.

He mentioned how prominent figures like David Chalmers, one of the world’s most renowned philosophers, have been discussing the possibility of these systems being conscious. This discussion even took place at Neurips, one of the top Machine Learning Conferences, where Chalmers engaged in dialogue with computer scientists and provided benchmarks to assess the consciousness or sentience of AI systems.

Anthis’s talk explores various aspects of AI, from the perceived sentience of LLM-based chatbots to their implications, philosophical considerations, and how users perceive them.

How The Public Perceives AI

Anthis began by discussing a project his team conducted in 2021, before much of the excitement surrounding generative AI emerged. They explored what Americans actually think about the possibility of AI achieving sentience. When they asked people if they thought it could ever be possible for robots/AI to be sentient, about a third of the respondents answered affirmatively. However, when they inquired whether any of the current AI systems are sentient, only 20% of them responded positively.

In a recent survey conducted by Anthis and his team, they found that approximately 10% of the respondents believe that ChatGPT, the popular chatbot developed by OpenAI, is sentient. In contrast, Anthis himself believes that ChatGPT does not yet exhibit a high level of sentience.

An important question, according to Anthis, is people’s perceptions of the future of AI systems. While those in the field may anticipate that progress will be slow and uneven, the public often expects rapid advancements.

Interestingly, many individuals believe that we already have Artificial General Intelligence (AGI). However, there is also a segment of the population that believes AGI will never come to fruition. Data indicates that it could potentially become a reality within the next two to five years, highlighting the varied perceptions and expectations regarding the future of AI.

Anthis Discusses Ethical Considerations

Anthis delves into the ethical considerations associated with the emergence of digital minds, including concerns regarding alignment issues and the safety of highly autonomous AI systems. This highlights the necessity for establishing guidelines and ethical frameworks in this rapidly evolving field.

Furthermore, Anthis explores the anticipation of the development of highly capable AI systems, which may give rise to a new class of entities in our society. This development poses unprecedented questions about the interactions between humans and AI, prompting us to consider the societal implications and ethical dimensions of such advancements.

In summary, the talk underscores the importance of examining user perceptions, delving into the philosophical implications of digital minds, and addressing the ethical considerations that arise as AI continues to advance and transform our world.

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