In brief: Some of the world's top tech minds are imploring artificial intelligence researchers to immediately pause work on training advanced systems. The signatories recommend labs should use the downtime to jointly develop and implement safety protocols for advanced AI design, which would be overseen by a team of independent, outside experts.

In an open letter published on Future of Life Institute's website, more than 1,100 signatories have expressed concern regarding what they call an out-of-control race to develop and deploy increasingly powerful digital brains in which we can't yet understand, predict or even reliably control.

"Should we let machines flood our information channels with propaganda and untruth? Should we automate away all the jobs, including the fulfilling ones? Should we develop nonhuman minds that might eventually outnumber, outsmart, obsolete and replace us? Should we risk loss of control of our civilization?"

The warning reads like sci-fi fodder and just a few short years ago, that might have been the case. Those keeping tabs on tech news, however, have witnessed increasingly capable AI systems launch one after another in short order. It is equal parts fascinating and worrisome.

The collective believe powerful AI systems should only be developed once we have a better understanding of their abilities and are confident that the pros will outweigh the cons.

As such, the group is urging all AI labs to pause their training on systems more capable than GPT-4 for a minimum of six months. This break should be transparent and confirmed, involving all significant contributors. If it's not possible to implement the halt quickly, the group recommends that governments intervene and enforce a temporary ban.

It's worth reiterating that the group is not asking for a pause on all AI development, but simply to take a break from the breakneck speeds at which cutting-edge, unpredictable systems are being developed and rolled out without fully understanding all of the consequences.

Several high-profile tech minds have already signed the open letter including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Elon Musk, Pinterest co-founder Evan Sharp, Ripple co-founder Chris Larsen, and Jaan Tallinn, co-founder of Skype. Those who agree with the message are invited to add their signature as a public show of support.

Image credit: Orb by Michael Dziedzic, Arm by This is Engineering