Meta Chief AI Scientist Yann LeCun is skeptical of AGI even as his boss, CEO Mark Zuckerberg, goes all in

Ben Wodecki, Jr. Editor

January 23, 2024

3 Min Read
Image capture of Yann Lecun via YouTube
AI House Davos 2024

At a Glance

  • Meta's chief AI scientist, Yann LeCun, said AGI is more a distant aspiration than a near-term reality.
  • The Turing award winner - computing's Nobel prize - says this in light of his boss, CEO Mark Zuckerberg, going all in on AGI.
  • LeCun, who is 63, said he would be happy if at the end of his career, AI systems would be "as smart as a cat."

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently surprised the AI community by saying the company is focused on achieving AGI. But his chief AI scientist is warning that creating AGI “will take years, if not decades.”

Speaking with journalists at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Yann LeCun said that AGI “is not around the corner.”

“It’s going to require new scientific breakthroughs that we don’t know of yet. You might wonder why the people who are not scientists believe this, since they are not the ones who are in the trenches trying to make it work,” Spanish newspaper El País reports.

The idea of artificial general intelligence, broadly defined as AIs being able to perform general tasks on par with or better than humans, is a goal long-sought-after by many in AI, including OpenAI and Google DeepMind.

LeCun told the gathered press that Meta does not have a design for an intelligent system that would reach human intelligence. He argued that to come close to achieving this dream, AI systems need to “understand the physical world, which they can’t do at the moment; remember, which they can’t do at the moment; reason and plan, which they can’t do at the moment, either.”

“It’s not because we can’t build a robot. It’s because we can’t make them smart enough,” said LeCun, a Turing award winner, adding that he would be “happy” if by the end of his career AI systems were “as smart as a cat or something similar.”

Related:And An Open Source AI Giant Rises: Zuckerberg Targets AGI

Regulation conflation

Moreover, because AGI is far away from becoming reality, LeCun contended that it is too early to regulate, saying, “asking for regulations because of fear of superhuman intelligence is like asking for regulation of transatlantic flights at near the speed of sound in 1925.”

OpenAI has been meeting with heads of state and regulators to ask them to put rules around AI development, deployment and use. World leaders have rounded up other leading AI players including Google, Microsoft, Anthropic, Nvidia, Amazon and others.

During last year’s AI Safety Summit in the U.K. that gathered world leaders and top AI companies, LeCun went on a Twitter rant, blasting his fellow AI luminaries for asking for regulation due to fears that AI will kill all humanity. He called these fears “preposterous.”

El País reports that LeCun told the gathered press he was pleased that the public debate around AI has now shifted to focus on issues like intellectual property and disinformation and away from apocalyptic hypotheticals.

LeCun was joined in the press conference by Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of Global Affairs, who agreed that lawmakers should regulate products and not research.

Related:In a Rare Outburst, Meta’s LeCun Blasts OpenAI, Turing Awardees

“The only reason why you might think it would be useful to regulate research and development is if you believe in this fantasy of AI systems taking over the world, or being intrinsically dangerous,” said Clegg, who was a former British deputy prime minister.

‘Everyone’ at Davos talking about AI

LeCun said via X (Twitter) that everyone at Davos was talking about AI.

“This is a technology that has everyone excited as well as worried. And there were a lot of panels where we discussed the benefits as well as the risks, a lot of discussions about the limitations on the technology about where it's going, but I think current technology is really limited and that we need to work towards the next generation.”

View post on X

LeCun told reporters that AI will “amplify human-corrective intelligence” and he foresees a future where "all our interactions with the digital world will be mediated by an AI system.”

Meta has just released its next generation Ray-Ban smart glasses with an AI assistant. Zuckerberg recently described it as “the ideal form factor for letting an AI see what you see and hear what you hear.”

LeCun said that humans should feel empowered by assistant-based systems that could help us in the future. “If you think about the effect this could have on society long-term, it could have a similar effect as the invention of the printing press.”

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ChatGPT / Generative AI

About the Author(s)

Ben Wodecki

Jr. Editor

Ben Wodecki is the Jr. Editor of AI Business, covering a wide range of AI content. Ben joined the team in March 2021 as assistant editor and was promoted to Jr. Editor. He has written for The New Statesman, Intellectual Property Magazine, and The Telegraph India, among others. He holds an MSc in Digital Journalism from Middlesex University.

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