Skip to main content

The president of tech giant Microsoft Corp. MSFT-Q said there is no chance of super-intelligent artificial intelligence being created within the next 12 months, and cautioned that the technology could be decades away.

OpenAI co-founder Sam Altman was removed in November as chief executive officer by the company’s board of directors, but was swiftly reinstated after a weekend of outcry from employees and shareholders.

Reuters last week exclusively reported that the ouster came shortly after researchers had contacted the board, warning of a dangerous discovery they feared could have unintended consequences.

The internal project named Q* (pronounced Q-Star) could be a breakthrough in the startup’s search for what’s known as artificial general intelligence (AGI), one source told Reuters. OpenAI defines AGI as autonomous systems that surpass humans in most economically valuable tasks.

However, Microsoft president Brad Smith, speaking to reporters in Britain on Thursday, rejected claims of a dangerous breakthrough.

“There’s absolutely no probability that you’re going to see this so-called AGI, where computers are more powerful than people, in the next 12 months. It’s going to take years, if not many decades, but I still think the time to focus on safety is now,” he said.

Sources told Reuters that the warning to OpenAI’s board was one factor among a longer list of grievances that led to Mr. Altman’s firing, as well as concerns over commercializing advances before assessing their risks.

Asked if such a discovery contributed to Mr. Altman’s removal, Mr. Smith said: “I don’t think that is the case at all. I think there obviously was a divergence between the board and others, but it wasn’t fundamentally about a concern like that.

“What we really need are safety brakes. Just like you have a safety break in an elevator, a circuit breaker for electricity, an emergency brake for a bus – there ought to be safety breaks in AI systems that control critical infrastructure, so that they always remain under human control,” Mr. Smith added.

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe