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Sam Altman is ready to bear the burden of the world’s fears about AI

Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI, has had a turbulent year, with the last few weeks especially. In his first public appearance since being fired and then rehired as ChatGPT’s CEO, Altman wryly admitted to being “worn out.”

Despite his exhaustion, the 38-year-old laid out the difficult path ahead to advance OpenAI’s products. He did admit, though, that he expects to face a lot of criticism and pressure as he guides the company to its objectives.

In his first public appearance since reclaiming the position as CEO of the Microsoft-backed LLM creator, Altman spoke to John Hope Bryant, founder and CEO of Operation Hope, at the Hope Global Forum in Atlanta on December 11.

Altman stated that his company’s goal was to continue engaging with users and the larger society and that he understood some of the concerns about how his technology could be used to harm humanity.

“I wanted to do this, and I wish I were a little less tired and more engaged—I’m sorry, it’s been a long few weeks. I’m a little worn down, but I’m delighted to be here,” Altman said to the crowd. “It’s strange being in the news and reading these things that just don’t seem like me at all,” he continued. “But, in the spirit of having empathy for your enemies, I believe people are concerned about AI, and I understand and share that concern. They need someone to project it onto, and I’m just going to be that person for a little while, which is fine.”

Sam Altaman

Altman also acknowledged that the year since ChatGPT’s launch has changed the lives of OpenAI’s 770 employees, the majority of whom submitted an open letter threatening to resign if Altman was permanently removed.

“We thought [ChatGPT] was not going to be a big deal,” said Altman. “We thought it’d be a medium deal, we thought it’d be like ‘Oh, people are going to like this, they’ll think it’s cool,’ but we then jumped into this tornado that has not stopped.”

OpenAI’s “tornado” consisted of gaining 100 million users in two months, prompting many opponents to launch their rival LLMs. Altman has been thrust into the spotlight, embarking on a 22-country world tour, meeting with world leaders, and appearing on the front pages of the world’s media.

“Everybody’s life at the company—we had to do what most companies do in a five- or 10-year period in six months,” Altman said. “That was extremely difficult. It led to all sorts of crazy things; it was a very fun, very blessed experience, but a very painful and difficult process.”

Altman admits to having job anxiety. Altman also shared some hard truths about the potential impact of LLMs on society. Warnings include everything from Terminator-style dystopian fears to Goldman Sachs’ estimate that the technology will disrupt 300 million jobs. Other experts believe the concerns are exaggerated, while JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon thinks it will hasten the adoption of a shorter work week.

The CEO of OpenAI stressed the importance of being open about these concerns, saying that concerns about job loss could be realized: “That could happen, and I believe it’s important to be open about it.”

SAM ALTMAN

“I was afraid for a long time that the way this was going to work was that AI just started doing every job and it went from grocery store checkout clerks to doctors, but what seems to be happening, and what I think will happen more than I originally thought, is that it will be a tool…that changes the way people do their jobs, in the same way, that mobile phones, the internet before that, and computers before that did. We adapt and seek out new and better ways to work.”

Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff at AI Surge is a dedicated team of experts led by Paul Robins, boasting a combined experience of over 7 years in Computer Science, AI, emerging technologies, and online publishing. Our commitment is to bring you authoritative insights into the forefront of artificial intelligence.
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