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OpenAI’s Sam Altman Weighs In on AI Risks and His Current Stance on AGI Fears

Last Updated March 19, 2024 5:35 PM
James Morales
Last Updated March 19, 2024 5:35 PM

Key Takeaways

  • Sam Altman recently appeared as a guest on Lex Fridman’s podcast.
  • The OpenAI CEO discussed AGI and AI risks.
  • Altman said he believes no single person should have control over the powerful AI systems he expects to emerge in the coming years.

As one of the most important figures in AI, Sam Altman is better placed than most to understand where the technology is going and has a unique perspective on its risks.

In a recent episode  of Lex Fridman’s podcast, the OpenAI CEO discussed Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), how he anticipates AI evolving in the coming years and the risks it poses to humanity.

The Road to AGI

When asked by Fridman when he thought humanity would build AGI, Altman observed that the question misses the complexity of the debate:

“I used to love to speculate on that question. I have realized since that I think it’s very poorly formed, and that people use extremely different definitions for what AGI is. So I think it makes more sense to talk about when we’ll build systems that can do capability X or Y or Z, rather than when we fuzzily cross this one-mile marker.”

Nonetheless, he predicted that by the end of the decade “we will have quite capable systems” that will look remarkable compared to today’s technology.

Biggest Changes Still to Come

While Altman prefers to talk in terms of fuzzy milestones rather than radical epistemic shifts, he doesn’t underestimate the potential for AI to transform the global economy.

He observed that it is a “huge deal” when a new technology can significantly increase the rate of scientific discovery. But he suggested that OpenAI’s most advanced AI models have yet to instigate the kind of profound economic transformation he expects to see in the coming years.

As such, he concluded that “the road to AGI” will be “a giant power struggle.

Sam Altman Discusses AI Governance

Asked by Fridman whether he trusts himself with the kind of power AGI could create, Altman hesitated.

Referring to the drama of his firing and subsequent reinstatement as the CEO of OpenAI last year, Altman acknowledged that it is now harder to argue that the board could easily fire him if it needed to.

Nonetheless, he said he still believes it is important that no single person has total control over the company or the technology it creates.

“I continue to not want super-voting control over OpenAI. I never have,” he stated.  “Even after all this craziness, I still don’t want it. I continue to think that no company should be making these decisions and that we really need governments to put rules of the road in place.”

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