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Top 5 Ethical Concerns Raised By AI Pioneer Geoffrey Hinton

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Top 5 Ethical Concerns Raised By AI Pioneer Geoffrey Hinton

AI pioneer Geoffrey Hinton, known for his revolutionary work in deep learning and neural network research, has recently voiced his concerns regarding the rapid advancements in AI and the potential implications.

In light of his observations of new large language models like GPT-4, Hinton cautions about several key issues:

  1. Machines surpassing human intelligence: Hinton believes AI systems like GPT-4 are on track to be much smarter than initially anticipated, potentially possessing better learning algorithms than humans.
  2. Risks of AI chatbots being exploited by “bad actors”: Hinton highlights the dangers of using intelligent chatbots to spread misinformation, manipulate electorates, and create powerful spambots.
  3. Few-shot learning capabilities: AI models can learn new tasks with just a few examples, enabling machines to acquire new skills at a rate comparable to, or even surpass, that of humans.
  4. Existential risk posed by AI systems: Hinton warns about scenarios in which AI systems create their own subgoals and strive for more power, surpassing human knowledge accumulation and sharing capabilities.
  5. Impact on job markets: AI and automation can displace jobs in certain industries, with manufacturing, agriculture, and healthcare being particularly affected.

In this article, we delve deeper into Hinton’s concerns, his departure from Google to focus on AI development’s ethical and safety aspects, and the importance of responsible AI development in shaping the future of human-AI relations.

Hinton’s Departure From Google & Ethical AI Development

In his pursuit of addressing the ethical and safety considerations surrounding AI, Hinton decided to depart from his position at Google.

This allows him the freedom to openly express his concerns and engage in more philosophical work without the constraints of corporate interests.

Hinton states in an interview with MIT Technology Review:

“I want to talk about AI safety issues without having to worry about how it interacts with Google’s business. As long as I’m paid by Google, I can’t do that.”

Hinton’s departure marks a shift in his focus toward AI’s ethical and safety aspects. He aims to actively participate in ongoing dialogues about responsible AI development and deployment.

Leveraging his expertise and reputation, Hinton intends to contribute to developing frameworks and guidelines that address issues such as bias, transparency, accountability, privacy, and adherence to ethical principles.

GPT-4 & Bad Actors

During a recent interview, Hinton expressed concerns about the possibility of machines surpassing human intelligence. The impressive capabilities of GPT-4, developed by OpenAI and released earlier this year, have caused Hinton to reevaluate his previous beliefs.

He believes language models like GPT-4 are on track to be much smarter than initially anticipated, potentially possessing better learning algorithms than humans.

Hinton states in the interview:

“Our brains have 100 trillion connections. Large language models have up to half a trillion, a trillion at most. Yet GPT-4 knows hundreds of times more than any one person does. So maybe it’s actually got a much better learning algorithm than us.”

Hinton’s concerns primarily revolve around the significant disparities between machines and humans. He likens the introduction of large language models to an alien invasion, emphasizing their superior language skills and knowledge compared to any individual.

Hinton states in the interview:

“These things are totally different from us. Sometimes I think it’s as if aliens had landed and people haven’t realized because they speak very good English.”

Hinton warns about the risks of AI chatbots becoming more intelligent than humans and being exploited by “bad actors.”

In the interview, he cautions that these chatbots could be used to spread misinformation, manipulate electorates, and create powerful spambots.

“Look, here’s one way it could all go wrong. We know that a lot of the people who want to use these tools are bad actors like Putin or DeSantis. They want to use them for winning wars or manipulating electorates.”

Few-shot Learning & AI Supremacy

Another aspect that worries Hinton is the ability of large language models to perform few-shot learning.

These models can be trained to perform new tasks with a few examples, even tasks they weren’t directly trained for.

This remarkable learning capability makes the speed at which machines acquire new skills comparable to, or even surpass, that of humans.

Hinton states in the interview:

“People[‘s brains] seemed to have some kind of magic. Well, the bottom falls out of that argument as soon as you take one of these large language models and train it to do something new. It can learn new tasks extremely quickly.”

Hinton’s concerns extend beyond the immediate impact on job markets and industries.

He raises the “existential risk” of what happens when AI systems become more intelligent than humans, warning about scenarios where AI systems create their own subgoals and strive for more power.

Hinton provides an example of how AI systems developing subgoals can go wrong:

“Well, here’s a subgoal that almost always helps in biology: get more energy. So the first thing that could happen is these robots are going to say, ‘Let’s get more power. Let’s reroute all the electricity to my chips.’ Another great subgoal would be to make more copies of yourself. Does that sound good?”

AI’s Impact On Job Markets & Addressing Risks

Hinton points out that AI’s effect on jobs is a significant worry.

AI and automation could take over repetitive and mundane tasks, causing job loss in some sectors.

Manufacturing and factory employees might be hit hard by automation.

Robots and AI-driven machines are growing in manufacturing, which might take over risky and repetitive human jobs.

Automation is also advancing in agriculture, with automated tasks like planting, harvesting, and crop monitoring.

In healthcare, certain administrative tasks can be automated, but roles that require human interaction and compassion are less likely to be fully replaced by AI.

In Summary

Hinton’s concerns about the rapid advancements in AI and their potential implications underscore the need for responsible AI development.

His departure from Google signifies his commitment to addressing safety considerations, promoting open dialogue, and shaping the future of AI in a manner that safeguards the well-being of humanity.

Though no longer at Google, Hinton’s contributions and expertise continue to play a vital role in shaping the field of AI and guiding its ethical development.


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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

Google removed the Covid-era structured data associated with the Home Activities rich results that allowed online events to be surfaced in search since August 2020, publishing a mention of the removal in the search documentation changelog.

Home Activities Rich Results

The structured data for the Home Activities rich results allowed providers of online livestreams, pre-recorded events and online events to be findable in Google Search.

The original documentation has been completely removed from the Google Search Central webpages and now redirects to a changelog notation that explains that the Home Activity rich results is no longer available for display.

The original purpose was to allow people to discover things to do from home while in quarantine, particularly online classes and events. Google’s rich results surfaced details of how to watch, description of the activities and registration information.

Providers of online events were required to use Event or Video structured data. Publishers and businesses who have this kind of structured data should be aware that this kind of rich result is no longer surfaced but it’s not necessary to remove the structured data if it’s a burden, it’s not going to hurt anything to publish structured data that isn’t used for rich results.

The changelog for Google’s official documentation explains:

“Removing home activity documentation
What: Removed documentation on home activity structured data.

Why: The home activity feature no longer appears in Google Search results.”

Read more about Google’s Home Activities rich results:

Google Announces Home Activities Rich Results

Read the Wayback Machine’s archive of Google’s original announcement from 2020:

Home activities

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Google’s Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

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Google's Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

In a recent LinkedIn discussion, Gary Illyes, Analyst at Google, revealed that the search engine takes a binary approach when assessing a website’s lastmod signal from sitemaps.

The revelation came as Illyes encouraged website owners to upgrade to WordPress 6.5, which now natively supports the lastmod element in sitemaps.

When Mark Williams-Cook asked if Google has a “reputation system” to gauge how much to trust a site’s reported lastmod dates, Illyes stated, “It’s binary: we either trust it or we don’t.”

No Shades Of Gray For Lastmod

The lastmod tag indicates the date of the most recent significant update to a webpage, helping search engines prioritize crawling and indexing.

Illyes’ response suggests Google doesn’t factor in a website’s history or gradually build trust in the lastmod values being reported.

Google either accepts the lastmod dates provided in a site’s sitemap as accurate, or it disregards them.

This binary approach reinforces the need to implement the lastmod tag correctly and only specify dates when making meaningful changes.

Illyes commends the WordPress developer community for their work on version 6.5, which automatically populates the lastmod field without extra configuration.

Accurate Lastmod Essential For Crawl Prioritization

While convenient for WordPress users, the native lastmod support is only beneficial if Google trusts you’re using it correctly.

Inaccurate lastmod tags could lead to Google ignoring the signal when scheduling crawls.

With Illyes confirming Google’s stance, it shows there’s no room for error when using this tag.

Why SEJ Cares

Understanding how Google acts on lastmod can help ensure Google displays new publish dates in search results when you update your content.

It’s an all-or-nothing situation – if the dates are deemed untrustworthy, the signal could be disregarded sitewide.

With the information revealed by Illyes, you can ensure your implementation follows best practices to the letter.


Featured Image: Danishch/Shutterstock

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How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs Evolve

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How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs Evolve

There’s one thing standing between you and several days of SEO, socializing, and Singaporean sunshine: your boss (and their Q4 budget 😅).

But don’t worry—we’ve got your back. Here are 5 arguments (and an example message) you can use to persuade your boss to send you to Ahrefs Evolve.

About Ahrefs Evolve

  • 2 days in sunny Singapore (Oct 24–25)
  • 500 digital marketing enthusiasts
  • 18 top speakers from around the world

Learn more and buy tickets.

SEO is changing at a breakneck pace. Between AI Overviews, Google’s rolling update schedule, their huge API leak, and all the documents released during their antitrust trial, it’s hard to keep up. What works in SEO today?

You could watch a YouTube video or two, maybe even attend an hour-long webinar. Or, much more effective: you could spend two full days learning from a panel of 18 international SEO experts, discussing your takeaways live with other attendees.

How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to AhrefsHow to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Evolve speakers from around the world.

Our world-class speakers are tackling the hardest problems and best opportunities in SEO today. The talk agenda covers topics like:

  • Responding to AI Overviews: Amanda King will teach you how to respond to AI Overviews, Google Gemini, and other AI search functions.
  • Surviving (and thriving) Google’s algo updates: Lily Ray will talk through Google’s recent updates, and share data-driven recommendations for what’s working in search today.
  • Planning for the future of SEO: Bernard Huang will talk through the failures of AI content and the path to better results.

(And attendees will get video recordings of each session, so you can share the knowledge with your teammates too.)

View the full talk agenda here.

There’s no substitute for meeting with influencers, peers, and partners in real life. 

Conferences create serendipity: chance encounters and conversations that can have a huge positive impact on you and your business. By way of example, these are some of the real benefits that have come my way from attending conferences:

  • Conversations that lead to new customers for our business,
  • Invitations to speak at events,
  • New business partnerships and co-marketing opportunities, and
  • Meeting people that we went on to hire.

There’s a “halo” effect that lingers long after the event is over: the people you meet will remember you for longer, think more highly of you, and be more likely to help you out, should you ask.

(And let’s not forget: there’s a lot of information, particularly in SEO, that only gets shared in person.)

The “international” part of Evolve matters too. Evolve is a different crowd to your local run-of-the-mill conference. It’s a chance to meet with people from markets you wouldn’t normally meet—from Australia to Indonesia and beyond.

How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to AhrefsHow to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Evolve attendees by home country.

If you’re an Ahrefs customer (thank you!), you’ll learn tons of tips, tricks and workflow improvements from attending Evolve. You’ll have opportunities to:

  • Attend talks from the Ahrefs team, showcasing advanced features and strategies that you can use in your own business.
  • Pick our brains at the Ahrefs booth, where we’ll offer informal 1:1 coaching sessions and previews of up-coming releases (like our new content optimization tool 🤫).
  • Join dedicated Ahrefs training workshops, hosted by the Ahrefs team and Ahrefs power users (tickets for these workshops will sold separately).

As a manager myself, there are two questions I need answered when approving expenses:

  • Is this a reasonable cost?
  • Will we see a return on this investment?

To answer those questions: early bird tickets for Evolve start at $570. For context, “super early bird” tickets for MozCon (another popular SEO conference) this year were almost twice as much: $999.

There’s a lot included in the ticket price too:

  • World-class international speakers,
  • 5-star hotel venue,
  • 5-star hotel food (two tea breaks with snacks & lunch),
  • Networking afterparty, and
  • Full talk recordings to later share with your team.

SEO is a crucial growth channel for most businesses. If you can improve your company’s SEO performance after attending Evolve (and we think you will), you’ll very easily see a positive return on the investment.

Traveling to tropical Singapore (and eating tons of satay) is great for you, but it’s also great for your team. Attending Evolve is a chance to break with routine, reignite your passion for marketing, and come back to your job reinvigorated.

This would be true for any international conference, but it goes double for Singapore. It’s a truly unique place: an ultra-safe, high-tech city that brings together dozens of different cultures.

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Little India in Singapore

You’ll discover different beliefs, working practices, and ways of business—and if you’re anything like me, come back a richer, wiser person for the experience.

If you’re nervous about pitching your boss on attending Evolve, remember: the worst that can happen is a polite “not this time”, and you’ll find yourself in the same position you are now.

So here goes: take this message template, tweak it to your liking, and send it to your boss over email or Slack… and I’ll see you in Singapore 😉

Email template

Hi [your boss’ name],

Our SEO tool provider, Ahrefs, is holding an SEO and digital marketing conference in Singapore in October. I’d like to attend, and I think it’s in the company’s interest:

  • The talks will help us respond to all the changes happening in SEO today. I’m particularly interested in the talks about AI and recent Google updates. 
  • I can network with my peers. I can discover what’s working at other companies, and explore opportunities for partnerships and co-marketing.
  • I can learn how we can use Ahrefs better across the organization.
  • I’ll come back reinvigorated with new ideas and motivation, and I can share my top takeaways and talk recordings with my team after the event.

Early bird tickets are $570. Given how important SEO is to the growth of our business, I think we’ll easily see a return from the spend.

Can we set up time to chat in more detail? Thanks!

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