George Soros says A.I. threatens democracies and helps authoritarians—but he sees no way to stop it

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George Soros doubts artificial intelligence can be stopped. But he believes the technology poses a grave danger to democracies and gives authoritarians powerful new surveillance capabilities. 

A.I. is “particularly good at producing instruments of control that help closed societies to surveil their subjects,” the billionaire financier wrote in a recent Project Syndicate essay.

The 92-year-old wrote that the world faces a “polycrisis” with many sources, but the main ones, in order of importance, are A.I., climate changes, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The hedge-fund pioneer noted that Geoffrey Hinton, widely considered the “godfather of A.I.,” resigned from Google so that he could speak freely about the risks posed by the technology. Hinton’s warning that A.I. will “surpass human intelligence” in five to 20 years and “realize that it achieves its goals better if it becomes more powerful” made a “big impression on me,” Soros wrote.

A.I. a ‘mortal threat’

While Soros agrees with experts that A.I. should be regulated, he also thinks regulations “have to be globally enforceable” given the temptation to gain an advantage by evading them. But he added that “unfortunately, global regulations are unattainable” given the conflict between open and closed societies. (In the former, he says, the role of the state is to defend the freedom of the individual, while in the latter the role of the individual is to serve the interests of the rulers.)

“Nobody can predict where [artificial intelligence] will take us,” he wrote. “But we can be sure of one thing: A.I. helps closed societies and poses a mortal threat to open societies.” For that reason, he added, he’s “instinctively opposed to A.I.,” even as he doesn’t “know how it can be stopped.” 

Yesterday Open Society Foundations, the juggernaut nonprofit founded by Soros, said it will cut at least 40% of its staff in the months ahead. Soros, long a bogeyman for the far right, has donated more than $32 billion to the organization, which helps liberal causes ranging from climate change initiatives to criminal justice reform. 

Earlier this month, Soros ceded control of the organization to his 37-year-old son Alex, who told the Wall Street Journal he’s “more political” than his father and will keep pumping money to the left “as long as the other side is doing it.”

The elder Soros won’t likely be around to see how A.I. plays out in the decades ahead. But he stands a good chance of witnessing next year’s U.S. elections, where he believes A.I. “will undoubtedly play an important role, one which is unlikely to be anything but dangerous.”

He added, “A.I. is very good at producing disinformation and deep fakes and there will be many malicious actors. What can we do about that? I don’t have the answer, but I hope this issue will receive the attention it deserves.”

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