The Man Behind ChatGPT Is About To Have His Moment On Capitol Hill

The Man Behind ChatGPT Is About To Have His Moment On Capitol Hill

Congressman giving a speech written by AI

In a nutshell

In a nutshell

Rumors circulated for months in 2017 that Sam Altman was planning to run for Governor of California. Instead, he kept his job as one of Silicon Valley's most influential investors and entrepreneurs.

But now Altman is ready for a different political beginning.

Altman, the CEO and co-founder of OpenAI, the artificial intelligence company that created the ChatGPT viral chatbot and Dall-E image generator, will testify before Congress on Tuesday. His speech is part of a Senate subcommittee hearing on the dangers artificial intelligence poses to society and the protection the technology needs.

According to multiple reports, members of the House of Representatives on both sides of the vote on Monday night are also due to host a dinner with Altman. Dozens of lawmakers are planning to attend, with one Republican lawmaker calling the event part of a congressional process to assess the "tremendous potential and unprecedented threat that artificial intelligence poses to humanity."

Earlier this month, Altman was one of several tech CEOs who met with Vice President Kamala Harris and briefly with President Joe Biden as part of a White House effort to highlight the importance of ethical development and master AI.

The hearings and meetings come at a time when ChatGPT has sparked a new arms race against AI. A growing list of tech companies in recent months have launched new AI tools that could change the way we work, shop and interact. However, those same tools have also come under fire from some of the biggest names in technology for their potential to destroy millions of jobs, spread disinformation, and perpetuate prejudice.

As the CEO of OpenAI, perhaps more than anyone else, Altman has become the face of a new generation of artificial intelligence products capable of generating images and text in response to user commands. This week's lawsuit can only solidify his status as a key player in AI's rapid growth, as well as increase control over him and his company.

Those who know Altman describe him as a brilliant thinker, a person who bets on the future, and he has even been called “Startup Yoda.” In an interview this year, Altman described himself as someone who recognizes the dangers of AI and is even "a little afraid" of the technology. He and his company are committed to moving forward responsibly.

“If anyone knows where this is going, it’s Sam,” Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky wrote of Altman in a post about his inclusion on the Top 100 list. The influence of time this year. “But Sam also knows he doesn't have all the answers. He often asks, "What are you thinking about?" Maybe I'm wrong? "Thank God, someone with that kind of power has that much humility."

Others want Altman and OpenAI to be more careful. "significant dangers to society and humanity."

Altman said he agreed with parts of the letter. “I think it's very important to approach security issues with increasing caution and rigor,” Altman said at an event last month. "I don't think writing was the optimal response to that."

OpenAI declined to provide anyone for an interview on this story.

Next Bill Gates

The success of ChatGPT has brought Altman to the spotlight, but he has been a well-known figure in Silicon Valley for years.

Before co-founding OpenAI with Musk in 2015, Altman, a Missouri native, studied computer science at Stanford University and later launched Loopt, an app that helped users share their location with friends and use coupons for businesses around the world to get closer.

In 2005, Loopt joined the first Y Combinator group of companies, a well-known technology accelerator. Y Combinator co-founder Paul Graham later described Altman as "a very unusual guy".

“I remember three minutes after I met him I was like, ‘Oh, this is what Bill Gates must have been like when he was 19,’” Graham wrote in a 2006 post.

© Provided by CNN OpenAI co-founder and CEO Sam Altman speaks on stage during TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco 2019 at the Moscone Convention Center on October 3, 2019 in San Francisco, California. — Steve Jennings/Getty Images

Loopt was acquired in 2012 for approximately $43 million. Altman succeeded Graham as president of Y Combinator two years later. The position put Altman in contact with many influential figures in the technology industry. He stayed until 2019.

Margaret O'Mara, a technology historian and professor at the University of Washington, told CNN that Altman "has long been admired as a thoughtful, meaningful person and one of a very small number of powerful people who are in any way responsible for technology." and here it is." a lot of hesitation.

During the Trump administration, Altman regained attention as an outspoken critic of the president. It was in this context that he considered running for governor of California.

However, instead of running, Altman looked for candidates who aligned with his values, including a lower cost of living, clean energy, and 10% of the defense budget for research and development of future technologies.

Altman continues to champion some of these goals through his work in the private sector. He has invested in Helion, a research firm that last week struck a deal with Microsoft to sell clean energy to the tech giant through 2028.

Altman was also a proponent of the idea of ​​a universal basic income and suggested that one day AI could help achieve this goal by creating enough wealth to be redistributed among the population.

As Graham told a New Yorker about Altman in 2016, “I think his goal is to create the whole future.”

AI sensation at work overnight

With the launch of OpenAI, Musk and Altman's initial mission was to counteract concerns that AI could harm people and society.

“We talked about what is the best thing we can do to ensure a brighter future?” Musk told the New York Times of a conversation with Altman and others before the company was founded. “We can stay on the sidelines or encourage regulatory oversight, or we can engage with the right structure with the people who care about developing AI in a way that is safe and beneficial to humanity.”

In an interview marking the launch of OpenAI, Altman explained that the company is his way of advancing artificial intelligence technology. “I sleep better knowing I can make a difference now,” he said.

If there's one thing AI enthusiasts and critics alike can agree on, it's that Altman has clearly managed to make some impact on a rapidly changing technology.

Less than six months after the release of ChatGPT, the name has become a household name, almost synonymous with AI itself. Executives use it to write emails. Agents use it to make lists and legal documents. The tool has been tested in law and business schools and has been used to help some students cheat. And recently, OpenAI released a more powerful version of the technology that supports ChatGPT.

Tech giants like Google and Facebook are now trying to catch up. A similar generative AI technology is rapidly finding application in the productivity and research tools used by billions of people.

A future that once seemed far away now seems close, whether society is ready for it or not. Altman himself admitted that he was not sure how it would turn out.

O'Mara said she believes Altman fits into "the technological optimistic school of thought that has dominated the Valley for a very long time," which she describes as "the idea that we can invent technology that makes the world a better place." . " . " Location."

While Altman's cautious comments about AI seem to contradict this line of thought, O'Mara argues that it could be an "extension" of it. Essentially, she says, it's about "the idea that technology is transformative and can create positive change, but has so much potential to do so many things that it can actually be dangerous."

And if AI somehow helped end society as we know it, Altman might be more adaptable than most.

"I'm preparing to survive," he said in a 2016 New Yorker profile, mentioning several possible doomsday scenarios, including "He's attacking us."

“I try not to think about it too much,” Altman said. “But I have guns, gold, potassium iodide, antibiotics, batteries, water, IDF gas masks and a large piece of land in Big Sur that I can fly to.”

Brian Fung of CNN contributed to this report.

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