Ernie Davis on the landscape of AI risks

Ernie Davis (NYU)

Earlier this month, I spoke with Ernie Davis about why he is skeptical that risks from superintelligent AI are substantial and tractable enough to merit dedicated work. This was part of a larger project that we’ve been working on at AI Impacts, documenting arguments from people who are relatively optimistic about risks from advanced AI. 

Davis is a professor of computer science at NYU, and works on the representation of commonsense knowledge in computer programs. He wrote Representations of Commonsense Knowledge (1990) and will soon publish a book Rebooting AI (2019) with Gary Marcus. We reached out to him because of his expertise in artificial intelligence and because he wrote a critical review of Nick Bostrom’s Superintelligence

Davis told me, “the probability that autonomous AI is going to be one of our major problems within the next two hundred years, I think, is less than one in a hundred.” We spoke about why he thinks that, what problems in AI he thinks are more urgent, and what his key points of disagreement with Nick Bostrom are. A full transcript of our conversation, lightly edited for concision and clarity, can be found here.

By Robert Long