Warren Buffett compares AI to the creation of the atomic bomb

A hot potato: For all that we hear about the wonders of modern AI, there are plenty of people wary of the technology’s dangers. The latest skeptic is the fifth richest person in the world, Warren Buffet, who has just compared AI to the creation of the atomic bomb.

Berkshire Hathaway CEO Buffett and company vice chairman Charlie Munger were asked about AI during questions at the company’s annual meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, over the weekend.

Munger was asked if he believed AI would have a positive impact on stocks, the market, and society as a whole.

“Well, if you went into BYD’s factories in China, you would see robotics going at an unbelievable rate. So, we’re going to see a lot more robotics in the world. I am personally skeptical of some of the hype that is going into artificial intelligence,” Munger replied. “I think old-fashioned intelligence works pretty well.”

Buffett admitted that AI can do remarkable things. He said his friend Bill Gates had shown him the latest version of ChatGPT, though its ability to make him laugh was less than impressive. “[…] it couldn’t tell jokes. Well, Bill told me that ahead of time, prepared me, and it just isn’t there,” Buffett said.

Buffett: not a fan of AI, nuclear war, or crypto

The billionaire also sang AI’s praises for being able to check all legal opinions and “all kinds of things,” but warned that “when something can do all kinds of things, I get a little bit worried.”

Buffett then started to sound a bit like Elon Musk, one of the co-founders of ChatGPT creator OpenAI, who once called AI humanity’s biggest existential threat and more dangerous than North Korea.

“We did invent for very, very good reason, the atom bomb,” Buffett said. “And, World War Two, it was enormously important that we did so. But is it good for the next 200 years of the world that the ability to do so has been unleashed?”

Buffett, who has on multiple occasions said nuclear war is his biggest fear and that the thought of it keeps him up at night, pushed the comparison between AI and nuclear weapons by paraphrasing a quote Albert Einstein said after splitting the atom. Einstein said, “The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.”

Buffett’s version went, “With AI, it can change everything in the world, except how men think and behave, and that’s a big step to take.”

While the use of AI to generate images and other content is proving controversial, as we saw with System Shock and Amnesty International, some say it could bring much bigger problems. Geoffrey Hinton, known as the Godfather of AI, left Google last week with a warning that as companies take advantage of more powerful AI, the systems are becoming increasingly dangerous.

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