OpenAI CEO says ‘very subtle’ misalignments could make AI wreak havoc

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman on Tuesday warned the “very subtle societal misalignments” within artificial intelligence (AI) could cause things to “go horribly wrong,” while still expressing optimism about the technology’s benefits.

“There’s some things in there that are easy to imagine where things really go wrong. And I’m not that interested in the killer robots walking on the street direction of things going wrong,” Altman said Tuesday via a video call at the World Governments Summit in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

“I’m much more interested in the very subtle societal misalignments where we just have these systems out in society and through no particular ill intention, things just go horribly wrong,” added Altman, whose company created ChatGPT.

Altman, however, said he believes “things will go tremendously right,” if efforts are made to mitigate the downsides of AI technology.

“I think we can imagine a world in the not super distant future where everybody’s got a better life than people have today,” he said. “I think we can raise the standard of living so incredibly much if everyone has access to abundant amounts of really high-quality intelligence and they can use that tools to create whatever they want to do…that’s like pretty amazing.”

The tech executive emphasized his push for a body — similar to the International Atomic Energy Agency — to be established to supervise AI.

“We are going to need, I believe at some point, some sort of global system,” he said, adding later, “What sort of auditing? What sort of safety measures do we want in place before you can deploy a super intelligence, or however you want to call an AGI [artificial general intelligence].”

Asked what more government should be doing on the regulatory side, Altman argued the world is still in a stage of “a lot of discussion.”

“So there’s, you know, everybody in the world is having a conference. Everyone’s got an idea, a policy paper, and that’s OK,” Altman said. “I think we’re still at a time where debate is needed and healthy, but at some point in the next few years, I think we have to move towards an action plan with real buy-in around the world.”

But he argued OpenAI should not be the one determining regulations over its quickly advancing technology.

Altman has repeatedly called for government regulation of AI and has warned the rapidly changing technology has its risks.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have raised concerns over the dangers, and Altman pledged to work with these lawmakers to minimize the risks.

The San Francisco-based AI startup has been a significant player in the AI race, with Microsoft investing billions into the company. The Associated Press signed a deal with OpenAI last year to license AP’s archive of news stories to help train the artificial intelligence company’s systems.

OpenAI has also come under scrutiny, however, for the process in which it trains its chatbots. The New York Times sued Microsoft and OpenAI for copy infringement shortly before the new year, accusing companies of using millions of its articles to train their AI models.

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