The author of American Prometheus, Kai Bird, believes modern technology is ‘too dangerous to gamble with’ and supports senators’ efforts to ban it.
A biographer whose Pulitzer prize-winning book inspired the new film Oppenheimer has indicated support for a US senator’s proposal to bar the use of artificial intelligence in nuclear weapons launching.
“Humans must always maintain sole control over nuclear weapons,” Kai Bird, author of American Prometheus, remarked in a statement obtained by Politico.
“This technology is too dangerous to gamble with. This bill will send a powerful signal to the world that the United States will never take the reckless step of automating our nuclear command and control.”
Bird met with Ed Markey, a Democratic Massachusetts senator who is pushing to include the AI-nuclear provision in a big defense budget measure, in Washington on Thursday.
According to Politico, Markey was a friend of Bird’s co-author, late Tufts University professor Martin J Sherwin.
According to a spokeswoman for the senator, Politico Markey and Bird “shared their mutual concerns over the proliferation of artificial intelligence in national security and defense without guardrails, and the risks of using nuclear weapons in south Asia and elsewhere.”
“They also discussed ways to increase awareness of nuclear issues among the younger set.”
Robert Oppenheimer was the main driving force behind the United States’ development of the atomic bomb at the end of World War II.
Oppenheimer, Christopher Nolan’s summer blockbuster starring Cillian Murphy in the lead character, is based on Bird and Sherwin’s novel.
@aiqiangai notes Cillian Murphy’s last nuclear bomb detonation in a movie since Oppenheimer raking 2.3K+ Views:
After sunshine (2007) detonates a nuclear bomb to blow up the Sun, Cillian Murphy detonates a nuclear bomb again in Oppenheimer (2023). pic.twitter.com/vbzzs23bE2
— Aiqiangai (@aiqiangai) July 15, 2023
The film will be released in the United States on Friday, competing with Greta Gerwig’s film about the popular children’s dolls, Barbie.
Nolan told the Guardian on Friday:
“International surveillance of nuclear weapons is possible because nuclear weapons are very difficult to build. Oppenheimer spent $2bn and used thousands of people across America to build those first bombs. It’s reassuringly difficult to make nuclear weapons and so it’s relatively easy to spot when a country is doing that. I don’t believe any of that applies to AI.”
Nolan also noticed “very strong parallels” between Oppenheimer and AI specialists who are currently advocating for the regulation of such technology.
Nolan stated he had “been interested to talk to some of the leading researchers in the AI field, and hear from them that they view this as their ‘Oppenheimer moment’. And they’re clearly looking to his story for some kind of guidance … as a cautionary tale in terms of what it says about the responsibility of somebody who’s putting this technology to the world, and what their responsibilities would be in terms of unintended consequences.”
The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer, written by Bird and Sherwin, was published in 2008.
In his Guardian review, James Buchan praised the writers’ portrayal of “the cocktails and wire-taps and love affairs of Oppenheimer’s existence, his looks and conversation, the way he smoked the cigarettes and pipe that killed him, his famous pork-pie hat and splayed walk, and all the tics and affectations that his students imitated and the patriots and military men despised.”
“It is as if these authors had gone back to James Boswell, who said of Dr Johnson: ‘Everything relative to so great a man is worth observing.”
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