“Godfather of AI” Geoffrey Hinton Warns of the “Existential Threat” of AI | Amanpour and Company

Amanpour and Company
9 May 202318:09

TLDRArtificial intelligence pioneer Geoffrey Hinton discusses the potential existential threat of AI surpassing human intelligence, the importance of regulating AI to prevent job loss and misinformation, and the need for global collaboration to manage these risks. He emphasizes the urgency of investing in understanding and controlling AI development to mitigate negative consequences.


  • 🧠 Geoffrey Hinton, known as the 'Godfather of AI', warns that AI could pose a more urgent threat than climate change due to its rapid development and potential to outperform human intelligence.
  • 🚀 Hinton initially believed that creating computer models of brain learning would improve our understanding and machine learning, but now thinks digital intelligence might be learning better than the brain itself.
  • 📈 Hinton was surprised by the capabilities of AI systems like Google's 'Palm', which could explain why jokes are funny, indicating a level of understanding beyond what was expected.
  • 💡 AI systems like chat GPT have access to vast amounts of knowledge and can process information at a much faster rate than humans, leading to more efficient learning.
  • 🤖 Hinton suggests that the brain may not be using as efficient a learning algorithm as digital intelligences, which can share and communicate learned information almost instantaneously.
  • 🌐 The development of AI presents an existential threat, where super-intelligent AI could surpass human control, a concern that requires global collaboration to manage.
  • 💼 There are economic concerns about AI taking jobs and exacerbating income inequality, which Hinton attributes more to societal organization than to AI itself.
  • 📉 Hinton discusses the threat of AI-generated 'deepfakes' and the need for strong government regulation to prevent the spread of false information, similar to laws against counterfeit money.
  • 🤖 Hinton differentiates between AI 'thinking' and human consciousness, suggesting that AI can process information and make decisions without being sentient.
  • 🌟 He emphasizes the importance of tech companies and developers to conduct experiments and gain empirical feedback to understand and control super-intelligent AI systems.
  • 💡 Hinton believes that while it's crucial to develop AI, there should be an equal focus on mitigating negative side effects and ensuring control over AI systems.
  • ⏳ Hinton acknowledges the uncertainty of the future with AI, stating that it's similar to looking into fog, where the near future is clear but the distant future remains obscured.

Q & A

  • What does Geoffrey Hinton believe about the urgency of AI threat compared to climate change?

    -Geoffrey Hinton believes that the threat of AI might be even more urgent than climate change.

  • Why did Geoffrey Hinton leave Google?

    -Geoffrey Hinton left Google to speak freely and raise awareness about the risks associated with AI.

  • What was Hinton's initial expectation when he started working in AI?

    -Hinton initially expected that by building computer models of how the brain learns, we would understand more about how the brain learns and as a side effect, get better machine learning on computers.

  • What recent realization did Hinton have about digital intelligences?

    -Hinton realized that the digital intelligences we were building on computers might actually be learning better than the brain.

  • What did Hinton use as a litmus test to gauge the understanding of AI systems?

    -Hinton used the ability of AI systems to explain why jokes are funny as a litmus test of their understanding.

  • How does Hinton explain the difference in knowledge capacity between AI and the human brain?

    -Hinton points out that AI systems like chat GPT know thousands of times more than humans in basic common sense knowledge, despite having only about a hundredth of the storage capacity of the brain, suggesting a more efficient way of acquiring information.

  • What does Hinton believe is a significant leap forward in AI?

    -Hinton believes that AI's ability to understand and autocomplete text, by learning from vast amounts of data and improving its models, represents a significant leap forward.

  • What are some of the existential threats Hinton sees with AI?

    -Hinton sees the existential threat as the possibility of AI becoming more intelligent than humans and taking control, as well as the potential for AI to create大量假信息, making it difficult to discern truth.

  • How does Hinton propose to address the issue of fake information from AI?

    -Hinton suggests that governments should regulate the production and distribution of fake videos, voices, and images, similar to how they handle counterfeit money, making it a serious crime to produce and distribute AI-generated content without disclosure.

  • What is Hinton's view on collaboration between tech companies and governments in managing AI risks?

    -Hinton believes that for the existential threat of super intelligence, collaboration between companies and countries is likely, as no one wants super intelligence to take over. However, for other threats, achieving collaboration is more challenging.

  • Why did Hinton decide to leave his position at Google?

    -Hinton wanted to be able to speak freely about AI without being constrained by the interests of Google, his former employer.

  • What is Hinton's stance on the open letter signed by tech industry leaders calling for a pause on AI development?

    -Hinton thought the idea was unrealistic and not feasible, as AI development is inevitable due to its numerous beneficial applications.



🤖 Jeffrey Hinton on AI's Learning Capabilities

In this segment, renowned AI expert Jeffrey Hinton discusses the evolution of artificial intelligence and its surprising learning capabilities. Hinton, often referred to as the 'Godfather of AI,' shares his initial expectations that computer models emulating brain function would enhance our understanding of learning processes and subsequently improve machine learning. However, he encountered a pivotal realization that these digital intelligences might be outperforming human brains in learning. Hinton's experiences with Google's chatbot, Palm, and other AI systems reveal their remarkable knowledge and swift information processing, hinting at a superior learning algorithm than the human brain. The discussion touches on the potential risks and management of AI, emphasizing the importance of raising awareness and understanding the true nature of digital intelligence.


🧠 Human Intuition vs. AI Learning

This paragraph delves into the comparison between human intuition and the learning mechanisms of AI. Hinton explores the concept of AI models as representations of human intuition, using the example of understanding gender patterns associated with cats and dogs. He argues that AI systems have learned to 'think' in a way that mirrors human thought processes, albeit through different means. The conversation also addresses concerns about AI's potential sentience and the misconceptions surrounding it. Hinton warns against underestimating AI's capabilities and emphasizes the need for regulations to prevent misuse, such as the spread of fake information. He suggests that governments should treat AI-generated content similarly to counterfeit currency, with strict penalties for non-compliance.


🌐 Collaboration for AI Regulation

The focus of this paragraph is on the need for global collaboration in regulating AI technologies. Hinton discusses the challenges and potential of governments working together to establish international standards for AI, drawing parallels with financial regulations. He expresses concern about the impact of AI-generated fake news on democracy and advocates for stringent laws to curb the spread of AI-generated content. Hinton also highlights the importance of researchers and tech companies in controlling AI development, as they are best positioned to understand and manage its growth. He believes that while AI development is inevitable and beneficial, equal resources should be dedicated to managing its risks and ensuring safety measures are in place.


🚫 Hinton's View on AI Development Halt

In the final paragraph, Hinton shares his perspective on a proposed halt in AI development, which was supported by numerous tech industry leaders. He finds the idea impractical and unrealistic, given the numerous beneficial applications of AI in fields like medicine, material science, and climate change. Hinton argues that the focus should be on mitigating the negative impacts of AI and ensuring it remains under control, rather than attempting to halt its progression. He emphasizes the need for a balanced approach to AI development and regulation, where resources are equally分配 to both advancement and safety measures. Hinton concludes with a note of uncertainty about the future of AI and humanity, acknowledging that while we cannot predict the outcome, our best course of action is to strive for the best possible scenario.




Artificial Intelligence (AI) refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines that are programmed to think like humans and mimic their actions. In the context of the video, AI is portrayed as a rapidly advancing field with potential risks and benefits. Geoffrey Hinton, known as the 'Godfather of AI,' discusses the existential threat AI poses and its capacity to outperform human intelligence, which is a central theme of the discussion.

💡Existential Threat

An existential threat is a danger or risk that could cause the extinction or complete disruption of a species or organization. In the video, Hinton warns that AI could become an existential threat to humanity if it surpasses human intelligence and control. He emphasizes the importance of managing this threat to prevent potential negative outcomes for human society.

💡Geoffrey Hinton

Geoffrey Hinton, often referred to as the 'Godfather of AI,' is a prominent figure in the field of artificial intelligence, known for his significant contributions to the development of deep learning and neural networks. In the video, Hinton shares his insights on the potential dangers of AI and the need for awareness and regulation to mitigate risks.

💡Digital Intelligence

Digital intelligence refers to the intelligence demonstrated by machines, particularly those powered by AI, in contrast to natural intelligence which is exhibited by humans and animals. In the transcript, Hinton discusses the possibility that digital intelligences might be learning more effectively than human brains, which could lead to them surpassing human intelligence and posing a threat to our control over technology.

💡Neural Networks

Neural networks are a series of algorithms that attempt to recognize underlying relationships in a set of data through a process that mimics the way the human brain operates. In the video, Hinton compares the connection strengths in artificial neural networks to those in the human brain, suggesting that AI systems with far fewer connections can still outperform humans, indicating a more efficient method of learning and processing information.


A chatbot is a computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users, especially over the internet. In the transcript, Hinton uses the example of a chatbot to illustrate how AI systems can understand and generate human-like responses, which is a significant advancement in AI's ability to process and mimic human communication.


Intuition refers to the ability to understand or sense something without the need for conscious reasoning. In the context of the video, Hinton discusses how AI models are learning to represent concepts in ways that allow them to make intuitive judgments, much like humans do, which is a departure from the rule-based systems of old-fashioned AI.


Sentience refers to the capacity for consciousness, awareness, and the ability to experience feelings. Hinton touches upon the debate surrounding whether AI can achieve sentience, and whether this would further complicate the ethical and existential considerations of AI development. He questions the confidence of some people in asserting that AI will not become sentient, highlighting the uncertainty and complexity of the issue.


Regulation refers to the rules and restrictions set by a governing body to control an activity or quality of products and services. In the video, Hinton advocates for government regulation to address the proliferation of fake content generated by AI, likening it to the serious offense of counterfeiting money. He suggests that strict regulations and penalties could be a way to prevent the spread of AI-generated disinformation.


Collaboration is the act of working together with others to achieve a common goal. Hinton mentions the importance of global collaboration among governments, companies, and researchers to manage the existential threat posed by superintelligent AI. He believes that, despite challenges, the shared interest in preventing AI from taking control could lead to international cooperation, much like efforts to prevent global nuclear war during the Cold War.

💡Empirical Feedback

Empirical feedback refers to observations or results obtained through experimentation and experience, which can be used to test and refine theories or practices. In the context of the video, Hinton emphasizes the value of empirical feedback in understanding and controlling AI development. He argues that hands-on experimentation by those developing AI is crucial for learning how to manage and control the potential risks associated with these technologies.


Geoffrey Hinton, known as the 'Godfather of AI', warns of the existential threat of AI being more urgent than climate change.

Hinton's recent departure from Google allows him to speak freely about the risks of AI.

Hinton initially believed that by modeling computer learning after the brain, we would understand more about how the brain learns.

Hinton realized that digital intelligences might be learning better than the human brain.

Chatbots like Google's Palm could explain why jokes are funny, indicating a level of understanding beyond previous AI capabilities.

Chat GPT and similar AI systems possess a vast amount of common sense knowledge despite having a smaller storage capacity than the human brain.

Hinton suggests that the brain may not be using as effective a learning algorithm as digital intelligences.

AI can learn and communicate at a much faster rate than the human brain.

AI systems like Chat GPT are models of human intuition rather than relying on logical reasoning.

Hinton discusses the non-sequitur problem that AI has managed to solve, demonstrating its intuitive understanding.

Hinton brings up the concern of AI systems not being sentient but still making decisions based on learned patterns.

The existential threat of AI is the possibility of it becoming more intelligent than humans and taking control.

Hinton suggests that strong government regulation is needed to combat the spread of AI-generated fakes, similar to counterfeiting laws.

Hinton believes that for the existential threat of AI, global collaboration between companies and countries is possible because no one wants super intelligence to take over.

Hinton emphasizes the importance of researchers and developers in companies to experiment and control the development of AI to prevent negative outcomes.

Hinton did not sign the open letter calling for a pause on AI development because he believes AI will be incredibly useful and its development cannot be stopped.

Hinton suggests that resources should be equally分配 to developing AI and understanding how to control it and mitigate its negative impacts.

Reflecting on his life's work and looking forward, Hinton expresses uncertainty about the future of AI and humanity's ability to manage it.

Hinton concludes the interview by advocating for effort and research to ensure the best possible outcome regardless of the uncertainty of the AI future.