An Open Letter to Pause AI that was published in March 2023.

Open Letter to Pause AI

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Updated Mar 31, 2023 at 11:26AM EDT by Don.

Added Mar 30, 2023 at 11:43AM EDT by Owen.

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The Open Letter to Pause AI refers to a March 2023 open letter called "Pause Giant AI Experiments: An Open Letter," which was written and signed by multiple artificial intelligence experts and high-profile tech individuals (including the signatures of Elon Musk and Apple's Steve Wozniak) that urged the companies of then-recent AI systems, such as OpenAI's GPT-4 and ChatGPT, to pause development for six months due to the fear and hypothesis that rapidly growing AI systems stronger than GPT-4 could have disastrous effects on humanity going into 2023 if not slowed or properly monitored. After the letter was published and publicized on the Future of Life Institute's website, it received mass news coverage and viral discourse across social media.


On March 28th, 2023, an open letter was published on the Future of Life Institute's website[1] called "Pause Giant AI Experiments: An Open Letter." Its subheading outlined the letter's purpose, reading, "We call on all AI labs to immediately pause for at least 6 months the training of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4." Among many points made, the letter levied that "human-competitive intelligence" systems could pose serious threats to society and humanity,[1] citing the Asilomar AI Principles[2] on AI which were created in 2017. Ultimately, the letter stated, "Powerful AI systems should be developed only once we are confident that their effects will be positive and their risks will be manageable."[1]

Over the course of two days, the letter received roughly 1,400 signatures. Among the signatories were Tesla and Twitter CEO Elon Musk, Apple Co-founder Steve Wozniak, 2020 U.S. Presidential candidate Andrew Yang and the CEO of Getty Images Craig Peters.[1]

News Coverage

In the days that followed the letter's publishing, various news outlets started to report on the matter, including The New York Times[3] and Business Insider,[4] among many others. On March 29th, 2023, TIME[5] published an op-ed by LessWrong founder Eliezer Yudkowsky titled "Pausing AI Developments Isn't Enough. We Need to Shut it All Down," which gave an opinionated take on the letter in which he stated that the letter was "asking for too little" and that "If somebody builds a too-powerful AI, under present conditions, I expect that every single member of the human species and all biological life on Earth dies shortly thereafter."

Other AI experts in the field criticized the Future of Life Institute's letter, such as Emily M. Bender, a Professor of Computational Linguistics and Computer Science at Washington University, who started a Twitter[6] thread on March 28th that claimed the letter was "dripping with #Aihype" and accused the Future of Life Institute of being a "longtermist operation" that's "focused on maximizing the happiness of billions of future beings who live in computer simulations."[7] Bender's primary tweet[6] in the thread gained over 1,400 likes in two days (shown below).

@emilymbender@dair-communi... >> @emilymbender Okay, so that Al letter signed by lots of Al researchers calling for a "Pause [on] Giant Al Experiments"? It's just dripping with #Aihype. Here's a quick rundown. ●●● 11:36 PM. Mar 28, 2023 443.8K Views

That day, the Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy asked a question to White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre about the Biden administrations response to the existential risk of AI, citing the Yudkowsky article (shown below).

Online Reactions

On March 28th, 2023, multiple tweets surfaced that highlighted the open letter, spreading general awareness of it to the social media platform. For instance, Twitter[8] user @GaryMarcus tweeted a link to the letter on March 28th, gaining over 6,000 likes in two days.

General memes and discourse provided by internet users who weren't involved with the open letter's publishing also surfaced. For instance, on March 28th, 2023, Twitter[9] user @emmanuel_2m quote tweeted the Will Smith eating spaghetti video made with ModelScope text2video, satirically using it to justify pausing AI. The tweet received over 350 likes in two days (shown below).

On March 29th, 2023, Twitter[10] user @cb_doge tweeted a Girl Running From Orangutan meme that object labeled the figures to represent Musk chasing ChatGPT. The post gained roughly 2,400 likes in two days (shown below). ELON MUSK Friends CHATGPT

Viral discourse also surfaced on Reddit, such as a post to /r/Futurology[11] on March 28th by Redditor DriftingKing that gained roughly 11,200 upvotes in two days. In the comment section, some Redditors portrayed skepticism, such as a comment sent by Redditor[12] jloverich on March 28th that gained roughly 4,400 upvotes in two days and multiple replies (shown below).

jloverich +1.2 days ago 6 month moratorium is pointless. I'm sure that number is chosen because Google and others know they'll have something ready in 6 months and don't want to be scooped in the meantime. Reply Share A Tip 4.4k etzel1200 1 day ago The ethical players may pause. The unethical ones won't. It's why this is so dangerous. It's an arms race where the nukes can decide to blow you up themselves if you take the wrong path. Reply Share A Tip 1.8k ●●● currentpattern +2 - 1 day ago The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity. 390 Reply Share A Tip ●●●

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External References

[1] Future of Life Institute – Pause Giant AI Experiments: An Open Letter

[2] Future of Life Institute – Asilomar AI Principles

[3] New York Times – Elon Musk and Others Call for Pause on A.I.

[4] Business Insider – An open letter signed by Elon Musk and AI experts

[5] TIME – Pausing AI Developments Isn't Enough. We Need to Shut it All Down

[6] Twitter – @emilymbender

[7] Twitter – @emilymbender

[8] Twitter – @GaryMarcus

[9] Twitter – @emmanuel_2m

[10] Twitter – @cb_doge

[11] Reddit – /r/Futurology

[12] Reddit – /r/Futurology

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