Warren Buffett compares AI to nuclear weapons in stark warning

Warren Buffett compares AI to nuclear weapons in stark warning

May 06,2024
New York CNN  — 

Warren Buffett is worried about artificial intelligence.

At his annual shareholder meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, the 93 year-old co-founder, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway issued a stark warning about the potential dangers of the technology.

“We let a genie out of the bottle when we developed nuclear weapons,” he said Saturday. “AI is somewhat similar — it’s part way out of the bottle.”

The so-called Oracle of Omaha acknowledged to his audience that he has little idea about the tech behind AI, but said he still fears its potential repercussions. His image and voice were recently replicated by an AI-backed tool, he said, and they were so convincing that they could have fooled his own family. Scams using these deep fakes, he added, will likely become increasingly prevalent.

“If I was interested in investing in scamming, it’s going to be the growth industry of all time,” he told the crowd.

Berkshire Hathaway has started employing some AI in its own business to make employees more efficient, said Greg Abel, the expected successor to Buffett who runs Berkshire’s non-insurance operations, on Saturday.

“At times it displaces the labor, but then hopefully, there’s other opportunities,” said Abel, who didn’t reveal much detail about how the company plans to use AI.

Buffett also acknowledged that the technology could change the world for the better, but said he isn’t sold yet. “It has enormous potential for good and enormous potential for harm,” he said. “And I just don’t know how that plays out.”

The AI explosion has already transformed workplaces across the world and nearly 40% of global employment could be disrupted by AI, according to the International Monetary Fund. Industries from medicine to finance to music have already felt its effects.

Shares of companies associated with the AI boom have soared. Chipmaker Nvidia (NVDA) is up about 215% over the last 12 months, while Microsoft (MSFT) is up about 34%.

Shares of Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A), have increased by 22% over the same period.

Not just Buffett

Buffett isn’t the only major business figure expressing concern about AI scamming.

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said in his annual shareholder letter last month that while he doesn’t yet know the full effect AI will have on business, the economy or society, he knows its influence will be significant.

“We are completely convinced the consequences will be extraordinary and possibly as transformational as some of the major technological inventions of the past several hundred years: Think the printing press, the steam engine, electricity, computing and the Internet, among others,” the JPMorgan Chase (JPM) CEO wrote in the letter.

Dimon also recognized the risks that come with the AI boom. “You may already be aware that there are bad actors using AI to try to infiltrate companies’ systems to steal money and intellectual property or simply to cause disruption and damage,” he wrote.

In January, JPMorgan Chase said it had seen a sizable increase in daily attempts by hackers to infiltrate its systems over the last year, highlighting the escalating cybersecurity challenges the bank and other Wall Street firms are facing.

JPMorgan Chase, the world’s largest bank by market capitalization, is also exploring the potential of generative AI within its own ecosystem, Dimon said. Software engineering, customer service and operations and general employee productivity are all getting AI makeovers.

Forty-two percent of CEOs surveyed at the Yale CEO Summit last summer said AI has the potential to destroy humanity five to 10 years from now, according to survey results shared exclusively with CNN.

“It’s pretty dark and alarming,” Yale professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld said of the findings.

Sonnenfeld said the survey included responses from 119 CEOs from a cross-section of business, including Walmart CEO Doug McMillion, Coca-Cola CEO James Quincy, the leaders of IT companies like Xerox and Zoom as well as CEOs from pharmaceutical, media and manufacturing.

Dozens of AI industry leaders, academics and even some celebrities have signed a statement warning of an “extinction” risk from AI.

That statement, signed by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, Geoffrey Hinton, the “godfather of AI” and top executives from Google and Microsoft, called for society to take steps to guard against the dangers of AI.

“Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war,” the statement said.

Additional reporting by Matt Egan.

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