Elon Musk and more than 1,100 experts from the tech industry and academia have called for a six-month “pause” on the development of advanced artificial intelligence (AI) systems such as OpenAI’s GPT, citing potential risks to society and humanity.

An open letter, published on Wednesday by a non-profit campaign group the Future of Life Institute, had been signed by more than 1,100 individuals from the tech and academia-industry.

“We call on all AI labs to immediately pause for at least six months the training of AI systems more powerful than GPT- This pause should be public and verifiable, and include all key actors. If such a pause cannot be enacted quickly, governments should step in and institute a moratorium,” the letter stated.

Co-signatories include Yoshua Bengio, Founder and Scientific Director at Mila, Turing Prize winner and professor at University of Montreal, Stuart Russell, Berkeley, Professor of Computer Science, director of the Center for Intelligent Systems, Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak, Skype Co-Founder Jaan Tallinn, among others.

The Future of Life Institute is an apolitical non-profit funded by a range of individuals and organizations who share its goal to reduce extreme large-scale risks from transformative technologies. The institute said it has become one of the world’s leading voices on the governance of AI having created one of the earliest and most influential sets of governance principles: the Asilomar AI Principles.

“AI labs and independent experts should use this pause to jointly develop and implement a set of shared safety protocols for advanced AI design and development that are rigorously audited and overseen by independent outside experts,” the group said. “These protocols should ensure that systems adhering to them are safe beyond a reasonable doubt. This does not mean a pause on AI development in general, merely a stepping back from the dangerous race to ever-larger unpredictable black-box models with emergent capabilities.”

The open letter came as tech giants and AI startups are rushing to develop better and more powerful AI systems to rival ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence chatbot developed by AI startup OpenAI which has gained popularity almost instantly. The chatbot signed up 1 million in the five days after its release, according to earlier report. By January, ChatGPT had amassed 100 million monthly active users only two months into its launch, making it the fastest-growing consumer application in history, according to a UBS note.

ChatGPT has also sparked a tense clash between Google and Microsoft. Earlier this month, Microsoft-backed startup OpenAI has announced the release of GPT-4, the latest version of its popular artificial intelligence chatbot ChatGPT. Alphabet Inc-backed Ahtropic, an AI firm has also launched Claude, a chatbot to rival Microsoft-backed OpenAI’s ChatGPT in the same month.

According to the open letter, AI systems with human-competitive intelligence can p”ose profound risks to society and humanity, as shown by extensive research and acknowledged by top AI labs”.

“As stated in the widely-endorsed Asilomar AI Principles, 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,” the letter stated.

“Unfortunately, this level of planning and management is not happening, even though recent months have seen AI labs locked in an out-of-control race to develop and deploy ever more powerful digital minds that no one – not even their creators – can understand, predict, or reliably control,” it added.

AI research and development should be refocused on making today’s powerful, state-of-the-art systems more accurate, safe, interpretable, transparent, robust, aligned, trustworthy, and loyal, according to the letter.

“In parallel, AI developers must work with policymakers to dramatically accelerate development of robust AI governance systems,” the letter stated.

The global buzz around US-based ChatGPT has also spread to China, shoring up stocks in AI related firms and prompting a flurry of local companies to announce rival projects, Reuters reported earlier this year.

On Monday, Chinese search engine giant Baidu has cancelled a planned livestreamed product launch related to its ChatGPT-like “Ernie bot” that it had advertised as being open to media and the public.

The webcast, scheduled for Monday afternoon, was switched to a closed-door meeting with the first batch of companies that are testing the product.

Earlier this month, Kai-Fu Lee, former president of Google China and now CEO of Sinovation Ventures, announced that he is building a new AI company called Project AI 2.0 that will focus on developing ChatGPT-like apps, as well as an ecosystem for AI-powered productivity tools, Technode.com reported.

Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings is said to have set up a development team to work on a ChatGPT-like chatbot, Reuters reported last month. China-based e-commerce firm JD.com announced that it would soon launch its own ChatGPT-style service, Technode.com reported. Alibaba Group have already announced plans to launch their own AI chatbots and incorporate the technology into their core businesses.

Kunlun Tech, China Telecom Corp, NetEase, 360 Security Technology Inc, Kuaishou Technology are among the Chinese firms that made announcements on AI technology, Reuters reported.

Microsoft-backed OpenAI announces ChatGPT successor GPT-4 that accepts image, text inputs