Oppenheimer's Grandson Signs Letter Saying AI Threatens “Life on Earth”

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“We are at a precipice.”

Red Alert

J. Robert Oppenheimer’s grandson is among the star-studded signatories of a new open letter about the dangers artificial intelligence poses to the planet.

The letter, which was issued by the Nelson Mandela-founded group The Elders in conjunction with the Future of Life Institute, calls on global decisionmakers to “show long-view leadership on existential threats,” including “ungoverned AI” and nuclear weapons.

Charles Oppenheimer, who founded the Oppenheimer Project to continue his grandfather’s mission of tempering scientific progress with “international cooperation and unity,” was joined by hundreds of others, including British billionaire Richard Branson, AI pioneer Geoffrey Hinton, writer and Carl Sagan widow Ann Druyan, and musician Peter Gabriel. In it, they warn that the world “is in grave danger” as we face down the perils of AI.

“We face a set of threats that put all humanity at risk,” the letter reads. “Our leaders are not responding with the wisdom and urgency required.”

Along with addressing AI and nuclear weapons, the letter calls on world leaders to “urgently address” continued concerns about pandemics and climate change as well.

“There could be worse to come,” the letter continues. “Some of these threats [jeopardize] the very existence of life on earth. We do not yet know how significant the emerging risks associated with Artificial Intelligence will be.”

“We are,” it reads, “at a precipice. “

Dividing Lines

In a post on X-formerly-Twitter — which is, of course, owned by since-departed OpenAI cofounder Elon Musk, whose signature is notably not on the letter — the Oppenheimer heir said that the call to action’s purpose “is to increase unity.”

“We all know short term political divisions are the wrong way to address our problems — and opportunities,” he wrote.

That statement against divisiveness is echoed in the letter itself, which “call[s] on world leaders to work together to address these existential threats more decisively.”

“We welcome people of all communities, generations, and political views to join us in asking for courageous decision-making,” it continues, “for the sake of our common future.”

Despite Oppenheimer’s legacy in pop culture being merely the “destroyer of worlds” who created the nuclear bomb, the physicist’s life after the Manhattan Project was dedicated to nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament — a penance, perhaps, for that which he wrought.

His grandson is clearly attempting to keep his famous forefather’s vision of peace in the face of cold scientific progress alive, and along with hundreds of others is calling on leaders to do something about these existential risks before it’s too late.

More on AI warnings: Sam Altman Worries AI Could Go “Horribly Wrong”

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