Why Should Anyone Trust Sam Altman?by@davidjdeal
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Why Should Anyone Trust Sam Altman?

by David DealMay 21st, 2023
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Sam Altman recently appeared before Congress to urge regulation of AI. Why should we trust him?
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Sam Altman built a powerful car without any brakes. Now he wants to give the keys to Mom and Dad.

In his first testimony before Congress on May 16, 2023, he implored lawmakers to regulate artificial intelligence.

I think if this technology goes wrong, it can go quite wrong. And we want to be vocal about that,” he said to the Senate Judiciary Privacy, Technology and the Law Subcommittee. “We want to work with the government to prevent that from happening.”

Altman said (among other things) that the United States should set up an agency (perhaps a global one), that would grant licenses for the most powerful AI systems.

Other key points:

OpenAI may destroy some jobs but also create new ones, and it will be important for “the government to figure out how we want to mitigate that” – as if it were the role of the government to clean up after him. 

The potential for AI to be used to manipulate voters and target disinformation are among his ‘areas of greatest concern,” mainly because “we’re going to face an election next year and these models are getting better.”

These are interesting statements from someone who told WIRED magazine in 2016, “We think it’s far more likely that many, many AIs will work to stop the occasional bad actors.”

WIRED noted that OpenAI cofounders “[Elon] Musk and Altman worry that if people can build AI that can do great things, then they can build AI that can do awful things, too. They’re not alone in their fear of robot overlords, but perhaps counterintuitively, Musk and Altman also think that the best way to battle malicious AI is not to restrict access to artificial intelligence but expand it.”

His visit to Capitol Hill was well received by legislators. (It should be noted that The New York Times charitably said the subcommittee members “displayed a budding understanding of the technology.”)

Not everyone was on board. Sarah Myers West, managing director of AI Now Institute, a policy research center, was quoted by The New York Times as saying, “It’s such an irony seeing a posture about the concern of harms by people who are rapidly releasing into commercial use the system responsible for those very harms.” Parmy Olsen of Bloomberg wrote bluntly, “Sam Altman isn’t the answer to regulating artificial intelligence.” 

He's certainly in the thick of AI development. But he was either naïve or disingenuous when he originally said that the best way to battle malicious AI is to expand its use. He sounds both naïve and disingenuous when he suggests the federal government can step in and regulate AI effectively.

Oh, and one more thing: venture capitalist Peter Thiel told The New Yorker in 2016 that “Sam’s program for the world is anchored by ideas, not people." Hmmm. Well, yes, ideas can change the world, but AI needs to be centered on the needs of people, which is the ethos of responsible and mindful AI. I'd prefer putting my trust in someone whose program for the world puts people first.

Also published here. 
Lead Photo by ilgmyzin on Unsplash