Pausing AI Development Is Not Feasible

Many in politics, academia, technology, and the media have recently called for a cessation or pause in Artificial Intelligence (AI) development. Their concern is that AI can be so disruptive that it can harm people’s lives, especially regarding employment.  Perhaps robots and computers will cost people’s jobs.  And they are alarmed that the technology is moving too quickly.

Pope Francis, the leader of the Roman Catholic church, “issued a warning against artificial intelligence . . . , saying in a statement it should be used in ‘service of humanity’ and warning to be vigilant of the ‘rapidly increasing impact’ the technology is having on society.”[1] In a statement from the Vatican the pope “called for ‘an open dialogue on the meaning of these new technologies, endowed with disruptive possibilities and ambivalent effects’ and said there is an ‘urgent need to orient” the use of AI in a responsible way so as to avoid ‘conflicts and antagonism.’ He said in the statement that AI must be used ethically in the specific fields of education and law, and that the development of the technology shouldn’t come ‘at the expense of the most fragile and excluded.’”[2]

Tesla, SpaceX, and X (formerly Twitter) CEO Elon Musk, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, entrepreneur, and former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, and over 1800 technologists have recently asked AI developers to slow down and take a six-month pause. Musk said, “governments should step in and institute a moratorium.”[3] Machine Intelligence Research institute co-founder Eliazer Yudlowsky said a “‘pause’ is insufficient. We need to shut it all down.”[4] The skeptics are concerned that AI tools present “profound risks to society and humanity” because of uncontrolled, unrestrained advances with unknown ramifications. They want to “give the industry time to set safety standards for AI design and head off potential harms.”[5] Their foremost concern is the effect of AI on existing jobs and the environment. Their document cautioned that:

“Advanced AI could represent a profound change in the history of life on Earth, and should be planned for and managed with commensurate care and resources.”[6]

Artificial intelligence and neural networks pioneer Geoffrey Hinton quit a key position at Google “so he can warn the world about the dangers of AI without having to watch his words.”[7] Perhaps we should listen more to David Meerman Scott, who noted that AI is “just data plus math.” The reality is that AI is a technological innovation, which like many in the past, will make some jobs obsolete but create many more for people who become proficient in this burgeoning field.[8] Peggy Noonan, a Wall Street Journal columnist, argues that a six-month moratorium is insufficient. She said, “Pause it for a few years. Call in the world’s counsel, and get everybody in. Heck, hold a World Congress.”[9] I think some people are over-dramatic. It also seems that many people calling for a pause are those working for companies that are in the lead now—and they want to maintain that lead by having everybody else freeze their efforts to catch up or go ahead.

Nobody seems to be protesting the number of cashier jobs displaced by self-checking in supermarkets, Walmart, and Target. Far more (lower wage) cashiers have been replaced by AI than any workers so far. And they don’t seem to have any problem with driverless cars and trucks on city streets. They not only have cost jobs, but there are also safety issues.

This is a paradox to me. Why would we want to suspend development in something that has been acknowledged by many tech leaders to be a significant breakthrough technology? A (mutually agreed upon) pause by developers is futile, impractical and unnecessary, as each company wants to develop breakthrough technologies ahead of its competition and will likely continue its efforts regardless. You cannot put the “genie back in the bottle.” We did not suspend the development of space technology (and other breakthrough technologies) so that all the social consequences were considered. Perhaps their positions on pausing the development of AI are self-serving: they are in the lead, so freeze the development of their competition. Developers are eager to move forward with new technologies. This does not preclude developers and scientists, including social scientists, from considering all aspects, positive and negative, of each new application.

Ronald Bailey, in Reason magazine, noted that there have been many incorrect recent alarmists that made apocalyptic forecasts that turned out to be failed prophesies. This included philosopher Bertrand Russell forecasting the danger of human survival and biologist Paul Ehrlich warning us of a coming human overpopulation and starvation. So perhaps we should be wary of the doomsayers.10

Resistance to new technologies did not stop the development of the automobile, crop biotechnology, robotics, nanotechnology, the birth control pill, and advances in artificial insemination, and they will not stop the new development of AI and who will oversee determining whether the AI developments will be harmful to humanity? A tribunal? A tribunal accused Galileo of religious heresy and his theories of not being based on science, and he was imprisoned for the remainder of his life.  We have seen several examples of politicizing controversial new technologies, and I do not trust there can be a genuinely non-partisan scientific study. There is always disruption due to new technologies: the horse and buggy whip manufacturers were put out of business by the creation of automobiles; elevator operators were retired due to push button controls in the elevators; plus, telephone switchboard operators, 35mm film processors, cinema projector operators, Blockbuster video store employees, travel agents; and grocery cashiers are being displaced by self-checkout. And we also need to consider the number of jobs created by the new technology while others are eliminated.

I am reminded of an economic game theory called “the prisoner’s dilemma,” in which individual decision-makers can choose a solution that is best for the group but is sacrificial for themselves. Usually, the individuals’ self-interests prevail, and the group result is less than optimal. I think similar results will happen if there is a mandated pause in development. Also, technologists and other scientists can observe and recommend changes to correct any negative consequences to society while AI application development continues.

The bottom line is that AI is a breakthrough technology developing for many years. It is very real. And it is not here to replace but to increase knowledge and productivity.  Like all prior technological leaps, including the introduction of the personal computer, the internet, and the smartphone, you should embrace it. Learn how to leverage it in your company and add mastery to your skill set.


[1] Molly Bohannon, “Pope Warns Artificial Intelligence Could Fuel Conflicts and Antagonism,” Forbes, August 8, 2023, accessed December 23, 2023,

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ronald Bailey, “Don’t Pause A.I. Research,” blog, June 22, 2023,’t-pause-ai-research/

[4] Ibid.

[5] “Artificial Intelligence Experts Call for Development Pause.” The Wall Street Journal, March 30, 2023,

[6] “Pause Giant AI Experiments: An Open Letter,”Future of Life Institute (blog), March 22, 2023, accessed December 22, 2023,

[7] Zoe Kleinman and Chris Valance, “AI ‘Godfather’Geoffrey Hinton Warns of Dangers as He Quits Google.” BBC News, May 02, 20223, accessed December 22, 2023,

[8] David Meerman Scott, “Super Simple Way to Understand Artificial Intelligence,” May 03, 2023, accessed December 22, 2023,

[9] Pegg Noonan, “A Six Month AI Pause? No Longer Is Needed.” The Wall Street Journal, Match 30, 2023, accessed December 22, 2023,