Google DeepMind, OpenAI Employees Pen Letter Warning of AI Risks

Earlier this month, a group of former and current employees at well-known AI companies wrote an open letter requesting more protections for employees who choose to voice their concerns on safety and warning of insufficient safety oversight in the industry. This move comes after a pair of top employees at OpenAI, key safety researcher Jan Leike and cofounder Ilya Sutskever, resigned from the company in May.

The letter is a significant public statement on the dangers of artificial intelligence from employees from this industry, which is generally regarded as secretive. It demands that these companies commit to principles on accountability and transparency, including a provision that companies will not coerce employees to sign nondisparagement agreements that bar them from voicing risk-related issues.

Companies such OpenAI have utilized aggressive tactics to prevent their workers from freely speaking about their work, going as far as making employees who leave the company sign very restrictive nondisclosure and nondisparagement documents or lose their vested equity.

The letter states that artificial intelligence companies hold significant nonpublic information about the limitations and capabilities of their systems, the risk levels of different harms and the sufficiency of their protective measures. However, the letter continued, the companies couldn’t be relied upon to share this information voluntarily, given the obligations they were under to share some of this data with governments.

In total, 11 former and current employees at OpenAI signed the letter, together with 2 former or current employees from Google DeepMind, one of whom was previously employed at Anthropic.

In a statement, OpenAI asserted that it didn’t roll out new technology until suitable safeguards were in place and that it had avenues to report any issues at the company. The company’s spokesperson stated that it was proud of its track record, offering the safest and most capable artificial intelligence systems and believed in its scientific approach on dealing with risk.

Google did not respond to a request for comment.

Concern over possible harms of AI have been floated for a while now, but the boom observed in the last couple of years has aggravated those concerns and left regulators clambering to catch up with these advancements.

While artificial intelligence companies have underscored their commitment to safely developing these technologies, employees and researchers have given warnings about how a lack of oversight may worsen already existing social harms or even create new ones. The letter notes that if there exists no effective government oversight of these companies, former and current employees are the only individuals who can hold them accountable to the public.

Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOGL) (NASDAQ: GOOG) and other AI companies may need to quickly address the safety concerns raised by insiders before the public starts getting wary of these new technologies that hold so much potential.

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