top of page

7 Fascinating Geoffrey Hinton Quotes On AI

Known as "The Godfather of AI", Geoffrey Hinton's pioneering work laid the foundations for many of the artificial intelligence (AI) applications we use today. A computer scientist and cognitive psychologist, he holds a PhD in computer science from the University of Edinburgh. With Yoshua Bengio and Yann LeCun, he won the Turing Award, referred to as the Nobel Prize for Computing, in 2018.

In the early 1990s, Hinton began working on deep learning, a type of machine learning that uses artificial neural networks to learn from data. His work was initially met with scepticism, but his refusal to alter course proved correct and eventually led to a revolution in AI. Today, deep learning is used in various applications and AI tools, including driverless cars, natural language processing, and facial recognition systems.

Hinton worked for Google from 2013 to 2023. He helped create Google Brain, a research team that is dedicated to advancing the state of deep learning. Hinton left Google in 2023 so that he could speak freely about the dangers of AI. He warned not enough guardrails were in place to control the technology and that he has slight regrets about some of his contributions to the field.

In a world increasingly reliant on AI, Geoffrey Hinton's quotes, insights, and warnings are more critical than ever. As the debate on the future direction of AI continues, his perspective, grounded in decades of experience and research, serves as a crucial guide as we explore this new frontier.

Headshot of Geoffrey Hinton with half his face overlayed with an AI graphic

1. The Dichotomy of Intelligence: Biology vs. Logic

"Early AI was mainly based on logic. You're trying to make computers that reason like people. The second route is from biology: You're trying to make computers that can perceive and act and adapt like animals."

Back in 2011, Hinton highlighted to the Globe and Mail the two main approaches to artificial intelligence: one based on human logic and the other on biological adaptation. He believes that learning and adaptation, which form the cornerstone of deep learning, will be critical to creating a complex form of artificial intelligence. This is a paradigm shift from traditional hand-programmed AI.

2. A Rocky Road: Hinton's Early Belief in Neural Networks

"I had a stormy graduate career, where every week we would have a shouting match. I kept doing deals where I would say, 'Okay, let me do neural nets for another six months, and I will prove to you they work.' At the end of the six months, I would say, 'Yeah, but I am almost there, give me another six months."

Looking back on his time in academia with the Globe and Mail in 2017, Hinton mentioned that despite facing scepticism and resistance in the early days of his career, he remained steadfast in his belief that neural networks would eventually outperform logic-based approaches. They had been discredited at that time, but Hinton never doubted that they would one day prove superior to the logic-based approach. This conviction laid the groundwork for the resurgence and widespread adoption of neural networks in modern AI.

3. The Morality Spectrum: The Influence of Human Bias on AI

"AI trained by good people will have a bias towards good; AI trained by bad people such as Putin or somebody like that will have a bias towards bad. We know they're going to make battle robots. They're not going to necessarily be good since their primary purpose is going to be to kill people."

At the Collision conference in 2023, Hinton underscores the dual nature of AI, highlighting that human decisions ultimately shape its impact on society. He emphasizes the critical need for proactive measures to mitigate the negative consequences of AI. His concerns resonate deeply in a world grappling with the ethical implications of rapidly evolving AI technologies.

4. A Double-Edged Sword: The Unseen Dangers of AI Enhancement

"I am scared that if you make the technology work better, you help the NSA misuse it more. I'd be more worried about that than about autonomous killer robots."

Speaking with the Guardian in 2015, Hinton played down concerns about the dangers of autonomous AI, directing attention instead to a more immediate problem: the misuse of AI by influential organizations for surveillance and other malicious purposes. His perspective highlights the importance of addressing not only the long-term risks of AI but also the immediate threats posed by its integration into existing power structures.

5. The Promise of Progress: Sharing the Benefits of AI

"In a sensibly organized society, if you improve productivity, there is room for everybody to benefit. The problem isn't the technology, but the way the benefits are shared out."

In a Daily Telegraph interview in 2017, Hinton expressed a measured optimism about the potential of AI to revolutionize fields like medicine and contribute to economic progress. However, he noted that the key challenge lies in ensuring the benefits of these advancements are equitably distributed across society.

6. The Inevitability of Progress: A Global Race for AI Advancement

"The research will happen in China if it doesn't happen here because there's so many benefits of these things, such huge increases in productivity."

In an interview with National Public Radio (NPR) in 2023, Hinton commented on why he did not sign a letter signed by 30,000 AI researchers and academics calling for a pause in AI research. He acknowledged the concerns of the broader AI community but argued that halting research is not a viable solution. His stance highlights the complexities and challenges of regulating AI while development proceeds at breakneck speed.

7. A New Chapter: Hinton's Commitment to Responsible AI

"I want to talk about AI safety issues without having to worry about how it interacts with Google's business. As long as I'm paid by Google, I can't do that."

On leaving Google in 2023, Hinton commented to the MIT Technology Review that he left so that he could openly express his concerns without the constraints of corporate interests. He intends to contribute to the discussion about responsible AI development and deployment.

Hinton's 2023 departure from Google marked a pivotal moment in his career, as he chose to prioritize ethical considerations over corporate allegiance. His decision underscores the importance of open and candid discussions about the responsible development and deployment of AI, free from commercial pressures.

Conclusion to Geoffrey Hinton's Quotes

Having left Google, Hinton continues to talk about AI publicly. While he believes progress in the field of artificial intelligence is inevitable and probably a good thing, he qualifies this with the warning that we need to ensure AI is used for good and that no existential threat is conceived.

As AI continues to evolve and permeate every aspect of our lives, Geoffrey Hinton's quotes, insights and warnings become increasingly important. The safe and ethical development and deployment of AI should be a priority for governments, companies and citizens across the globe.

bottom of page