Home Oppenheimer’s grandson urges action to stop AI and climate ‘catastrophe’

Oppenheimer’s grandson urges action to stop AI and climate ‘catastrophe’

Some of the world’s most powerful people have come together in an open letter to call on leaders to address issues like climate change, the pandemic, unregulated AI and the impending threat of nuclear war.

Charles Oppenheimer, J. Robert Oppenheimer’s grandson, was among signatories like the Virgin Group’s Richard Branson and former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Released Thursday, the letter was put together by The Elders; a human rights organization launched by Branson and former South African president Nelson Mandela.

The world is in ‘grave danger’

“Our world is in grave danger,” the letter (via CNBC) reads. “We face a set of threats that put all humanity at risk. Our leaders are not responding with the wisdom and urgency required.”

“The impact of these threats is already being seen: a rapidly changing climate, a pandemic that killed millions and cost trillions, wars in which the use of nuclear weapons has been openly raised […] There could be worse to come. Some of these threats jeopardize the very existence of life on earth.”

The letter calls upon world leaders to consider a longview strategy, and to demonstrate  “determination to resolve intractable problems, not just manage them, the wisdom to make decisions based on scientific evidence and reason, and the humility to listen to all those affected.”

The letter also included a call to action, as the undersigned called on world leaders to restart nuclear arms talks, reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, sign an equitable pandemic treaty, and to work towards making AI a force for good as opposed to something feared.

Also backing this message is the Future of Life Institute, a not-for-profit organization set up by Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn and MIT cosmologist Max Tegmark.

“The old strategy for steering toward good uses [of new technology] has always been learning from mistakes,” Tegmark told CBNC. “We invented fire, then later we invented the fire extinguisher. We invented the car, then we learned from our mistakes and invented the seatbelt and the traffic lights and speed limits. But when the power of the technology crosses a threshold, the ‘learning-from-mistakes’ strategy becomes awful.”

Perhaps that is why this open letter is now deemed necessary.

Featured Image: Photo by NASA on Unsplash.

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Charlotte Colombo
Freelance Journalist

Charlotte Colombo is a freelance journalist with bylines in Metro.co.uk, Radio Times, The Independent, Daily Dot, Glamour, Stylist, and VICE among others. She most recently worked as a Staff Writer for entertainment outlet The Digital Fix for two years and, prior to that, worked with Business Insider and Dexerto on their digital culture desks. She’s also appeared on BBC Radio 5 and The Guardian podcast to share her expertise on technology, influencers, and niche internet subcultures. She holds an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London and has been freelancing for three years. She has a wide range…

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