"We don't want to have a Hiroshima moment."

Bear Mode

This time last year, the billionaires at the World Economic Forum conference in Davos, Switzerland were impossibly gung-ho about artificial intelligence. But now cracks are forming, and they sound somewhat concerned.

As the Washington Post and other outlets report, this year's gathering at Davos has featured a decidedly shifted tone as the world's most influential movers and shakers start to see just how dangerous AI might be.

"Last year, the conversation [surrounding AI] was 'gee whiz,'" IBM government affairs vice president Chris Padilla told WaPo. "Now, it’s what are the risks? What do we have to do to make AI trustworthy?"

Between the untold number of jobs lost to the AI frenzy and the risk of even more rampant disinformation in this year's American presidential election, business, government and economic leaders have begun openly wondering whether the world should — or perhaps even can, at this point — pump the brakes.

"Human beings must control the machines instead of having the machines control us," Chinese Premier Li Quang said during a speech at the conference. "AI must be guided in a direction that is conducive to the progress of humanity, so there should be a red line in AI development — a red line that must not be crossed."

AI Bomb

Even OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, attending Davos for the first time, took a more conciliatory tone when addressing increasing concerns about the technology he's shepherding into existence.

"The OpenAI-style of model is good at some things," he said, "but not good at sort of like a life and death situations."

The summit's gravest warnings, however, came from a surprising source: Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, whose company has very much invested in the technology.

"We don't want to have a Hiroshima moment," Benioff said during a panel discussion. "We've seen technology go really wrong, and we saw Hiroshima, we don't want to see an AI Hiroshima."

In another interview, the CEO — whose company last year laid off 8,000 employees while paying actor Matthew McConaughey $10 million per annum for a sponsorship deal — admitted that he's long maintained the dangers AI poses to the world.

"I think AI has to be almost a human right," Benioff mused in a Yahoo Finance interview conducted in the Swiss Alpine town. "I've actually been saying... for decades that AI could be a creator of inequality."

It's undeniably good that CEOs have proven that they can read amid all the overwhelmingly bad press AI got over the past year — but then again, a quarter of those gathered at Davos also said they plan to fire people this year and replace them with AI, so let's not get ahead of ourselves.

More on CEOs and AI: As Google Pivots to AI, CEO Warns He Will Fire Even More Staff

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