Sam Altman Defends AI Thrust Days After Retaking OpenAI’s Helm
In his first public appearance since Sam Altman regained control of OpenAI after a surprise ouster attempt, the co-founder and chief executive officer defended his exploratory approach to developing AI.
Sam Altman is back on the conference circuit and touting AI's benefits to humanity, days after regaining the lead at the world's best-known artificial intelligence startup.
In his first public appearance since Altman regained control of OpenAI after a surprise ouster attempt, the co-founder and chief executive officer defended his exploratory approach to developing AI. “It's going to lift the world up,” he said, stressing potential advances in fields from health-care to education. And he described how he's always been fascinated by fictional rogue AIs like the Terminator — but that companies like OpenAI needed to push the boundaries to realize the technology's potential.
“All those thoughts about the ways that this could go wrong, you don't need much imagination because we grew up with that in the media,” Altman said in an onstage interview at a forum hosted by rights organization Operation Hope in Atlanta on Monday. “That's why we work so hard on safety. But we also believe you cannot build this safely in a vacuum.”
That's why OpenAI is attempting to build the technology openly and deploy widely, instead of within some secretive lab, he added. Altman said he understood the anxieties around AI being used to build bioweapons or hacking into computer systems, but “you gotta deploy.”
During the 35-minute conversation, Altman didn't directly address his surprise firing and reinstatement, or the plans for OpenAI's new board and system of governance.
Concern around the speed with which OpenAI was developing ChatGPT and other products was the central issue during an attempted coup that stunned Silicon Valley last month. Altman's co-founder and the board fired the entrepreneur, only to reinstate him days later after investors and employees revolted. Despite the exit of most of the previous board members, there are signs that differences with co-founder Ilya Sutskever haven't been ironed out.
The episode shone a spotlight on the potential dangers of a technology that could reshape vast swathes of industry, while also enhancing military capabilities.
“This time it's different,” Altman said, talking about AI's rapid evolution when compared with previous technological revolutions from the mobile phone to the internet. “And it's a little scary, to be sure.”
Altman said OpenAI had “jumped into this tornado that has not stopped.” He announced that he and John Hope Bryant, the founder of the Hope organization, will co-chair a new AI ethics council based out of Atlanta.
“People have a lot of anxiety, and I get that,” Altman told Bryant onstage. “They need a person to project that onto, and unfortunately for a while I'm going to be that person. And that's all right.”