Concerns Over Unfettered AI Development

Happy Wednesday! We have two main stories for you today, and neither is about politics. We hope you enjoy the break as much as we did.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • A Defense Department spokesman announced Tuesday the Pentagon will send 1,500 active-duty troops to the Southern border next week ahead of an anticipated surge of migrants following the end of a pandemic-era border restriction. The troops, deployed for 90 days, are expected to perform administrative duties usually handled by Customs and Border Protection officers, freeing the latter group up to be in the field. 
  • The Justice Department announced nearly 300 arrests on Tuesday as part of an international operation targeting so-called “darknet” drug trafficking, especially of fentanyl and opioids. The operation, which lasted more than 18 months and spanned three continents, shut down an online drug marketplace and led to the seizure of more than $50 million in cash and virtual currencies—as well as nearly 2,000 pounds of drugs.
  • Pornhub—one of the most-visited pornography platforms in the United States—blocked users in Utah from accessing its site this week in protest of the state’s new age-verification law. The law, which was signed in March and went into effect yesterday, requires users to verify they are over 18 years old with a “digitized identification card” before they can enter the site. Pornhub claimed that, without consistent enforcement, the measure will only drive traffic to other, less-secure sites.
  • Republican Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a law on Monday making it a felony to perform gender-transition procedures on minors, as well as provide them with puberty-blocking drugs or certain hormones. Oklahoma is the latest Republican-led state to limit such procedures.
  • U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger announced this week a 36-year-old Minnesota man had been arrested and charged with arson for allegedly starting fires at two Minnesota mosques last week that resulted in tens of thousands of dollars of damage. The man—who reportedly suffers from bipolar disorder—was also captured on surveillance video vandalizing Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar’s district office in January.
  • The Labor Department reported Tuesday job openings fell from 10 million in February to 9.6 million in March—the lowest level since April 2021—indicating the demand for workers may be cooling ahead of the Federal Reserve’s decision on interest rates later today. The quits rate—the percentage of workers who quit their job during the month—ticked down to 2.5 percent, while the number of layoffs and discharges edged up slightly to 1.8 million.
  • Texas law enforcement officials on Tuesday arrested the gunman who allegedly shot and killed five of his neighbors over the weekend, ending a four-day manhunt for the suspect, who is believed to be in the country illegally. Authorities confirmed Tuesday the alleged shooter’s wife had filed a protective order against him last year, claiming he beat her.
  • Washington Democratic Attorney General Bob Ferguson launched his campaign for governor on Tuesday, one day after Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee announced he would not run for reelection. Meanwhile, former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, said Tuesday he would not run for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin, and former Nevada state lawmaker Jim Marchant—a Republican who ran a failed, Trump-backed campaign for secretary of state in 2022—announced Tuesday he will challenge sitting Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen for her seat in 2024.
  • Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot died on Monday at the age of 84. The musician penned others’ Top 40 hits in the 1960s and 1970s before topping the charts himself with songs like “If You Could Read My Mind” and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”

Inevitable AI

The home page of the artificial intelligence OpenAI website, displaying its chatGPT robot in March 2023. (Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP via Getty Images)
The home page of the artificial intelligence OpenAI website, displaying its chatGPT robot in March 2023. (Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP via Getty Images)

To demonstrate the flaws of current artificial intelligence tools, we could start with the thousands of people fooled by a fake photo of the pope wearing a slick white puffer jacket. Or the AI-generated news articles full of plagiarism and falsehoods. Or the artists seeing their work scraped from the internet and regurgitated without compensation. Or the Afghan who had her refugee claim denied after a machine translation introduced errors into her paperwork.

But why not start with the people who helped develop these tools? “If I hadn’t done it, somebody else would have,” artificial intelligence pioneer Geoffrey Hinton told the New York Times this week, embracing the tech worker tradition of quitting a major company—in Hinton’s case, Google—to loudly warn of the dangers they’ve designed. “It is hard to see how you can prevent the bad actors from using it for bad things,” he said of AI technology. “I don’t think they should scale this up more until they have understood whether they can control it.”

Tech types have long had an unfortunate habit of both telling the public not to fret about what they’re up to and describing their work as a new Manhattan Project or forging Sauron’s One Ring. But in recent months—as several generative AI tools hit the market—the chorus of developers warning they might not be able to control what they unleash has gotten louder, and a vocal minority has urged the industry to hit pause on AI development. We’re unlikely to see a moratorium—whatever that would look like—but regulators and lawsuits have begun tackling more immediate problems the technology has wrought, like copyright infringement and misinformation.

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