Sam Altman shares his optimistic view of our AI future

Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, has been traveling across Europe for the past few days meeting with government leaders and start-up communities to discuss AI regulation, ChatGPT and more. In his final appearance on stage at Station F in Paris, Altman answered questions from local entrepreneurs and shared his thoughts on artificial intelligence.

A few days ago, Altman met Emmanuel Macron. Station F director Roxanne Varza first asked him about the content of the conversation. As expected, the discussion was mainly about regulations. “It’s been great. We talked about how to strike the right balance between protecting with this technology and letting it flourish,” Altman said.

He then explained why he travels from one country to another at a breakneck pace. “The reason for taking this trip is to get out of the Bay Area tech bubble,” he said.

Altman then listed some reasons why he is excited about the current state of artificial intelligence. According to him, AI is having a moment because it’s pretty good at a lot of different things, not just one thing. For example, AI can be extremely useful when it comes to education and we could be on the verge of a major shift in education around the world.

Of course, he also mentioned how GPT and other AI models have been helpful in improving productivity across a wide variety of tasks, including software development.

The discussion then shifted to regulation. A few days ago, at a similar event at University College London, Altman warned that excessive European regulation could lead to OpenAI leaving the continent altogether. While he was already backtracking on Twitter, proverb that “we are delighted to continue operating here and of course have no plans to leave”, he explained his thoughts for some time.

“We intend to comply, we really like Europe and we want to offer our services in Europe, but we just want to make sure we can technically do that,” Altman said.

In this question-and-answer session, Altman came out as a radical optimist, saying there will be some major technological breakthroughs (particularly around nuclear fusion) in the near future that will solve climate change. Likewise, he posed tough questions to the public, but he still believes that the benefits of artificial intelligence far outweigh the drawbacks.

“The discussion was too focused on the negatives,” Altman said. “It seems like the balance is off given all the value people are getting out of these tools these days.”

He again called for a “global regulatory framework” similar to nuclear or biotech regulation. “I think it’s going to get a good place. I think it’s important that we do this. Regulatory clarity is a good thing,” he said.

Image Credits: Romain Dillet/BlogRanking

Improving competition & models

What’s next for OpenAI? The step-by-step plan is quite simple. Altman says the team is working on “better, smarter, cheaper, faster, more capable models.”

The success of OpenAI and ChatGPT has also led to increased competition. There are other companies and AI labs working on large language models and generative AI in general. But Altman sees competition as a good thing.

“People competing with each other to make better and better models is great,” he said. “As long as we’re not competing in a way that compromises safety — if we’re competing for models while raising the bar on safety — I think it’s a good thing.”

In fact, there will not be one model that rules them all. Some models will become more specialized. Some models will be better at some tasks than others. “There will be a lot of models in the world. I think the trajectory we’re on is it’s going to be a fundamental enablement of technology,” Altman said.

AI as a tool to empower people

In many ways, Altman sees AI as a tool that can be used by humans to create new things, unlock potential, and change the way we should think about specific problems. For example, he does not believe that AI poses a risk to employment.

“The idea that artificial intelligence is going to get to the point where people have no work to do or no purpose at all has never crossed my mind,” Altman said. “There will be people who choose not to work, and I think that’s great. I think that should be a valid choice and there are many other ways to find meaning in life. But I have never seen convincing evidence that with better tools we have to work less.”

When it comes to journalism, for example, Altman says AI can help journalists focus on what they do best: do more research and spend more time finding new information worth sharing. “What if each of your journalists had a team of 100 people working for them in different fields?” he said.

And this is probably the most dizzying effect of the current AI wave. According to Altman, artificial intelligence will adapt to human needs and humans will adapt to what artificial intelligence can do. “This technology and society will evolve together. People will use it in different ways and for different reasons,” Altman said.

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