Fei-Fei Li, ‘Godmother of AI,’ says to stop worrying about an AI apocalypse

Fei-Fei Li, is a computer scientist who created a massive database, ImageNet, which laid the foundation for modern AI, which earned her the nickname “godmother of AI”. She is now an AI policy advisor to the Biden administration and co-director of the Human-Centered AI Institute at Stanford. And she thinks widespread “pessimism” about AI is overblown.

“I worry about the exaggeration of the risk of human extinction. I think it’s gotten out of hand,” Li told Bloomberg’s Emily Cheng at the Bloomberg Technology Summit on Thursday.

Earlier this year, a state-funded report indicated that, in a worst-case scenario, AI could become a “threat of extinction level» to humanity. It’s a scenario we’ve seen play out in sci-fi movies like I robot And Ex Machina. But Li believes such a prospect is unlikely and that the public should instead focus on the immediate, tangible impacts of artificial intelligence.

“It belongs in the world of science fiction,” she said. “There’s nothing wrong with thinking about all of that, but in relation to other real social risks – whether it’s the disruption of disinformation and misinformation in our democratic process, or, you know, kind of changes in the labor market or (private life) issues – these are real social risks that we have to deal with because they impact people’s real lives.”

Li also said there are many reasons to be hopeful about AI, and she believes the technology’s positive impacts are not emphasized enough.

“There are so many ways to use this to improve people’s lives and work,” she said. “I don’t think we’re giving enough voice to the people who are actually out there, in the most imaginative and creative ways that are trying to bring good to the world using AI.”

Li was appointed one of 12 members of the National Artificial Intelligence Research Resources Working Group by the White House in 2021. She consults with policymakers as they work to put in place guardrails for technology. Li is currently working on building a spatial intelligence startup that uses human-like visual data processing to make AI capable of advanced reasoning, Reuters reported last week, citing anonymous sources. Li declined to answer Cheng’s question about his plans for the startup at the Bloomberg Tech Summit.