Kissinger Warns of AI Dangers at MIT Conference

The former U.S. Secretary of State delivered a speech as part of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s 3-day celebration of the opening of the school’s new $1 billion computing facility.

by Jonathan Ng, Boston Herald / March 1, 2019
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(TNS) — Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger warned of the dangers of artificial intelligence Thursday at an MIT conference.

Kissinger’s speech was part of MIT’s kickoff to a three-day celebration of the school’s new $1 billion facility, the Schwarzman College of Computing — established with a $350 million donation from financier Steve Schwarzman, of the private equity firm Blackstone.

Last year, Kissinger wrote an op-ed for The Atlantic on why the U.S. government should “consider a presidential commission of eminent thinkers to help develop a national vision” on AI — with an ominous warning on the technology’s dangers.

“AI, by mastering certain competencies more rapidly and definitively than humans, could over time diminish human competence and the human condition itself as it turns it into data,” Kissinger wrote. “Philosophically, intellectually — in every way — human society is unprepared for the rise of artificial intelligence.”

Earlier this month, President Trump signed an executive order that calls on federal agencies to support the development of AI, following concerns that China is besting the U.S. in the race to advance the technology.

“AI makes it technically possible, easier, to control your population,” the 95-year-old statesman said on Thursday.

Outside the building, scores of protesters said Kissinger should never have been invited to speak at the college.

“We know Kissinger is a war criminal,” graduate student Josefina Buschmann said. “What does that mean to include people of such background when discussing the future of AI?”

“MIT invited him and treated him as a luminary, somebody to be celebrated, admired and looked up — that’s just ridiculous,” said Alonso Espinosa Dominguez, an MIT junior studying mathematics. “The issue with Schwarzman, his private equity firm, spent millions of dollars profited off terrible conditions in homes. It’s ridiculous that $350 million (was given) by this individual to MIT … what if the money were used to build housing for people screwed over by his firm?”

“We’re here to stand for the real MIT values,” said Nicolas Kisic Aguirre, an MIT 2018 graduate. “We are here to have a voice heard, they use our reputation to wash the names of Schwarzman, Kissinger, basically whoever gives money to the institute.

“We had a giant inflatable the shape of the missile,” Kisic Aguirre said, adding that the school should not partner with defense contractor Raytheon. “… Kissinger as a war criminal. But it also refers to the partnership MIT has with its deep history with Raytheon … MIT is creating people that go and work for companies like Raytheon.”

The college says it will create 50 new faculty positions and come close to doubling its current AI and computing offerings.

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