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Pausing AI Research: Are Humans Intelligent Enough To Do The Right Thing?

Everyone from Elon Musk to Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak to top Artificial Intelligence researchers have signed a public petition calling on a six-month moratorium on AI research. The ultimate decision will be left in the hands of humans, who are smart, but also vain and greedy.

Photo of Israel Protest against Judicial Reform in Tel Aviv, Israel

Israeli-born author Yuval Noah Harari is one of the leading voices urging caution about AI development

Pierre Haski


PARIS — A request for a six-month moratorium on artificial intelligence research, shared Wednesday by the Future of Life foundation, garnered over 1,000 signatures within hours from leading engineers and entrepreneurs in American technology. Notable signatories include Elon Musk, the head of Tesla and SpaceX; Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple; and the visionary author Yuval Noah Harari.

Their request is simple: they're calling for a six-month moratorium on any new research into AI tools that goes beyond what has already been accomplished by conversational software such as GPT-4, which has attracted significant attention.

The signatories have expressed longstanding concerns about the rapid progress of AI, which has been highlighted by the emergence of ChatGPT. They are calling for a pause in the race to create "powerful digital minds," which even their creators cannot fully comprehend or control.

The recent release of ChatGPT3, at the end of 2022, followed by version four just a few days ago, is a significant leap forward in the practical applications of AI. Previously, AI was a subject for experts — it has now entered the mainstream.

These experts caution that we have not yet mastered the ethical, social, economic, political or strategic consequences of this technology, which is progressing rapidly and on a massive scale. Before continuing at such breakneck speed, they argue that we should take a moment to reflect and establish a set of rules to govern its development.

Puffed-up Pope

Of course, it might be suggested that some of the signatories — Elon Musk comes to mind — are more afraid of losing the AI innovation race. Musk was one of the first financiers of Open A.I., the company behind ChatGPT, but he withdrew from the project and ceded control to Microsoft, which is now the major beneficiary of ChatGPT's success. But the proposal still raises legitimate concerns.

Is it possible to take a "break" in AI development? It seems unlikely — first, because of the intense competition between Silicon Valley giants, and around the world. In the current climate, could the U.S. and China agree on rules for AI, while Washington wages a technological war against China?

There's also the danger of autonomous weapons, where AI makes decisions about who and what to target.

Still, the questions raised are worth discussing. First of all, anyone who has used ChatGPT understands that, despite its errors and failures, the software has the potential to replace some human tasks. What will happen to the millions of human professionals that AI could replace?

Another concern is the potential for AI to generate disinformation. The images created by AI, such as the recent one of the Pope wearing a puffy down jacket, are remarkably realistic and hard to differentiate from reality.

Or when it comes to military matters, there's also the danger of autonomous weapons, where AI could make decision about who and what to target, and when to pull the trigger. The U.S. government says its military will not develop such weapons, unless their enemies do.

Thus there are plenty of good reasons for a temporary "pause" in artificial intelligence research. Yet it remains to be seen whether human intelligence is hard-wired to make such a reasonable choice.

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Iran Bans Women From Going To Male Doctors — Gender Laws, Beyond The Hijab

Recovering from the shock of Iran's 2022 mass protests, the clerical regime has vigorously resumed its campaign to enforce Islamic hijab rules. But it is also pushing for gender segregation in other important ways across society

photo of women in black robes and headscarves in iran

Iranian women police officers

Updated on Nov. 7, 2023 at 2:35 p.m.

Iran's deputy-chief prosecutor, Ghulam Abbas Turki, has instructed the country's health ministry to prevent male physicians from treating female patients, saying this is a violation of morals and the law.

Turki wrote in a letter published on Sept. 14 that men working in a technical and non-technical capacity in "certain clinics" were creating "problems and difficulties for respectable ladies and their families" and even causing them "emotional and psychological problems."

Article 290 of the country's criminal code is designed to address this, he wrote. A shortage of women's clinics like birthing centers, especially in provincial districts, is forcing women into hospitals with male staff, Turki wrote — therefore, the ministry must reorganize to ensure it had the necessary female staff, from specialists to GPs, technicians, anaesthetists and nurses, across the country.

Gender segregation was on the Islamic Republic's agenda almost as soon as it took power early in 1979, and it has since sought to implement it where it could. Most recently, following mass rioting in 2022 that was in part a revolt against the Iranian regime's forceful moralizing, the state has resumed efforts to enforce its hijab or public modesty and dress norms.

Last month, Armita Geravand, an Iranian teenage girl died after reports that she was accosted by officials on Tehran's Metro while not wearing a headscarf. Geravand's death comes after her being in a coma for weeks in Tehran and after the one-year anniversary of the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini which sparked nationwide protests at the time.

Beyond the hijab crackdown, the regime is also now taking a step further with gender segregation.This was evident in a flurry of communiqués and instructions issued in past months to public bodies, including hospitals. More importantly, the parliamentary legal affairs committee has approved a 70-article Hijab and Modesty Bill (Layehe-ye hejab va efaf) the judiciary proposed to parliament in the spring of 2023.

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