Christopher Nolan’s upcoming Oppenheimer film is set to make big waves next week when it releases next week. However, beyond the hype around the film, Nolan has stressed that he wants Oppenheimer to be seen as a cautionary tale for people who are responsible for creating new technology which will usher in the future of our planet. Specifically, Silicon Valley.
If you don’t know, Oppenheimer is a film about J. Robert Oppenheimer, a theoretical physicist who researched and developed the first nuclear weapons known to man. Through his rigorous development, Oppenheimer was responsible for creating the bombs used to bring both Hiroshima and Nagasaki to their knees in August 1945.
While the film is an exciting production by acclaimed director and producer Christopher Nolan, the man behind the movie wants it to also be a self-reflection moment for people who may be working on projects deemed “dangerous”. While “dangerous” doesn’t really mean nuclear bomb-sized threats in today’s time, it may have other connotations perhaps in technology and AI.
During a special screening of Oppenheimer at the Whitby Hotel in NYC, Nolan’s film was watched by a selection of scientists who were greeted by a panel conversation after the film. Nolan was asked what he hoped Silicon Valley might learn from the Oppenheimer movie which he hoped they would walk away with some concept of accountability.
When asked what he meant, Nolan says that “When you innovate through technology, you have to make sure there is accountability”. Of course, Nolan is referring to the various advancements we have made in the past few years with algorithms and AI. He says that over the past 15 years, companies just don’t want to take responsibility for what these algorithms do.
“The rise of companies over the last 15 years bandying about words like ‘algorithm,’ not knowing what they mean in any kind of meaningful, mathematical sense. They just don’t want to take responsibility for what that algorithm does.”
Nolan followed up by saying that the same goes for AI:
“And applied to AI? That’s a terrifying possibility. Terrifying. Not least because as AI systems go into the defense infrastructure, ultimately they’ll be charged with nuclear weapons and if we allow people to say that that’s a separate entity from the person’s whose wielding, programming, putting AI into use, then we’re doomed. It has to be about accountability. We have to hold people accountable for what they do with the tools that they have.”
It seems that people in various fields have now started using the “Oppenheimer Moment” as an achievement. Nolan claims that people leading research in the field of AI refer to their work as the “Oppenheimer moment”. He says that people look to his story to wonder what unintended consequences developing new technologies might have on the world.
“When I talk to the leading researchers in the field of AI they literally refer to this right now as their Oppenheimer moment. They’re looking to his story to say what are the responsibilities for scientists developing new technologies that may have unintended consequences. That’s helpful. That at least it’s in the conversation. And I hope that thought process will continue. I’m not saying Oppenheimer’s story offers any easy answers to these questions. But at least it serves a cautionary tale.”
Oppenheimer opens in cinemas on 21 July. Bookings for IMAX open later today in South Africa.
Source: The Verge