Focusing on doomsday scenarios in artificial intelligence is a distraction that plays down immediate risks such as the large-scale generation of misinformation, according to a senior industry figure attending this week’s AI safety summit.

Aidan Gomez, co-author of a research paper that helped create the technology behind chatbots, said long-term risks such as existential threats to humanity from AI should be “studied and pursued”, but that they could divert politicians from dealing with immediate potential harms.

“I think in terms of existential risk and public policy, it isn’t a productive conversation to be had,” he said. “As far as public policy and where we should have the public-sector focus – or trying to mitigate the risk to the civilian population – I think it forms a distraction, away from risks that are much more tangible and immediate.”

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