How a British computer scientist became the 'Godfather of AI'

Discover the remarkable journey and groundbreaking contributions of Geoffrey Hinton, widely known as the 'Godfather of AI.' Dive into the world of artificial intelligence as we explore the life and work of this influential figure. Learn about Hinton's pioneering research in neural networks, deep learning, and machine learning that have revolutionized the field of AI. Uncover the impact of his work on various applications, including computer vision, natural language processing, and pattern recognition. Explore the legacy of Geoffrey Hinton and his significant role in shaping the future of artificial intelligence.

May 25, 2023 - 21:41
May 25, 2023 - 23:24
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How a British computer scientist became the 'Godfather of AI'
How a British computer scientist became the 'Godfather of AI'
How a British computer scientist became the 'Godfather of AI'
How a British computer scientist became the 'Godfather of AI'
How a British computer scientist became the 'Godfather of AI'

Geoffrey Hinton: Who is the 'Godfather of AI'?

British computer scientist Geoffrey Hinton has left Google with a warning about the potential dangers of artificial intelligence, having spent his entire career driving the technology forward. Sky News takes a look back at his life to find out why he became known as the "Godfather of AI".

"He is considered one of the most important figures in the history of artificial intelligence - a visionary leader who has helped to shape the future of AI."

That's the glowing assessment of British computer scientist Geoffrey Hinton provided by Google's Bard, the technology giant's nascent chatbot powered by systems that he helped pioneer.

But less than three months after its launch, amid a dramatic upswing in the capability and accessibility of so-called large language models like Bard, mostly driven by the success of OpenAI's ChatGPT, the man known as the "Godfather of AI" has quit Google with a warning about the tech's threat to humanity.

"It is hard to see how you can prevent the bad actors from using it for bad things," he told The New York Times, concerned both about the dangers of disinformation, fuelled by convincingly generated photos, videos, and stories, and the transformative impact of AI on the jobs market, potentially making many roles redundant.

Dr Hinton's worrying outlook comes some five decades after he earned a degree in experimental psychology at the University of Cambridge and a PhD in AI at Edinburgh, followed by postdoctoral work in computer science at other leading universities on both sides of the Atlantic.

Born in Wimbledon in 1947, the path he found himself on was perhaps inevitable, given he heralded from a family of scientists including great-grandfather George Boole, a mathematician whose invention of Boolean algebra laid the foundations for modern computers; cousin Joan Hinton, a nuclear physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project, which produced the world's first nuclear weapons during the Second World War; and father Geoffrey Taylor, a respected scholar who became a member of the Royal Society, the world's oldest scientific academy.

"Be an academic or be a failure," Dr Hinton once recalled his mother having told him as a child - advice he certainly seemed to run with.

The 'key breakthrough'

Dr Hinton himself was inducted into the Royal Society in 1998. By then, he had co-authored a landmark paper with David Rumelhart and Ronald Williams on the concept of backpropagation - a way of training artificial neural networks hailed as "the missing mathematical piece" needed to supercharge machine learning. It meant that rather than humans having to keep tinkering with neural networks to improve their performance, they could do it themselves.

This technique is key to the chatbots now used by millions of people every day, each based on a neural network architecture trained on massive amounts of text data to interpret prompts and generate responses.

itself is well aware of how vital backpropagation is to its development, describing it as a "key breakthrough" that "helps ChatGPT adjust its parameters so that its predictions (responses) become more accurate over time".

Asked how backpropagation helps ChatGPT function, it says: "In essence, backpropagation is a way for ChatGPT to learn from its mistakes and improve its performance. With each iteration of the training process, ChatGPT becomes better at predicting the correct output for a given input."

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