OpenAI CEO Sam Altman has been touring Europe over the past few days meeting government leaders and startup communities to talk about AI regulation and beyond. In his last stage appearance at Station F In Paris, Altman answered questions from local entrepreneurs and shared his views on artificial intelligence.
A few days ago, Altman met with Emmanuel Macron. Station F director Roxanne Varza first asked him about the content of the conversation. As expected, the discussion was mainly about regulation. “It was great, we talked about how we can find the right balance between protecting this technology and evolving it,” Altman said.
He then explained why he travels from one country to another at such a rapid pace. “The reason for this trip is to get out of the Bay Area’s tech bubble,” he said.
Altman then listed some reasons why he is excited about the current state of artificial intelligence. According to him, the AI is having a moment because it’s pretty good at a lot of different things and not just one thing. For example, AI can be particularly useful when it comes to education, and we could be facing a major shift in education around the world.
Of course, he also mentioned how useful GPT and other AI models have been in improving productivity in a variety of professions, including software development.
The discussion then shifted towards regulation. A few days ago, at a similar event at University College London, Altman warned that excessive European regulation could lead to OpenAI left the continent altogether. While he has already backtracked on Twitter, saying “We are happy to continue working here and of course we have no intention of leaving,” he explained his reflections for some time.
“We want to stick to that, we really like Europe and we want to offer our services in Europe, but we just want to make sure we’re technically able to do that,” Altman said.
In this question-and-answer session, Altman came out as a radical optimist, saying that there will be some major technological breakthroughs (especially in the field of nuclear fusion) in the near future that will solve climate change. He also asked the audience tricky questions, but remains convinced that the benefits of artificial intelligence far outweigh the downsides.
“The discussion focused too much on the negative aspects,” Altman said. “Given the value that people are getting from these tools these days, it seems like the balance has been tipped.”
He again called for a “global regulatory framework” similar to nuclear or biotechnology regulation. “I think it will reach a good place. I think it’s important that we do that. “Regulatory clarity is a good thing,” he said.
Competition and improvement of models
What’s next for OpenAI? The roadmap is quite simple. Altman says the team is working on “better, smarter, cheaper, faster, and more powerful models.”
The success of OpenAI and ChatGPT has also led to more competition. There are other companies and AI labs working on big language models and generative AI in general. But Altman sees competition as a good thing.
“It’s great to have people compete with each other to create better and better models,” he said. “As long as we’re not competing in a way that compromises safety — if we’re competing for models while also raising the bar on safety — I think that’s a good thing.”
In fact, there will not be a single model that dominates them all. Some models become more specialized. Some models are better at some tasks than others. “There will be a lot of models in the world. I think the path we’re on is that it’s going to be a fundamental enablement of technology,” Altman said.
AI as a tool to improve humans
In many ways, Altman sees AI as a tool that people can use to create new things, unlock potential, and change the way we should think about certain problems. For example, he does not believe that AI poses a risk to employment.
“This idea that artificial intelligence is going to advance to the point where people don’t have work to do or meaning to do has never struck me,” Altman said. “There will be some people who choose not to work and I think that’s great. I think that should be a valid choice and there are many other ways to find meaning in life. But I’ve never seen compelling evidence that better tools mean less work.”
For example, when it comes to journalism, Altman says AI can help journalists focus on what they do best: doing more research and spending more time finding new information worth sharing become. “What if each of your journalists had a team of 100 people working for them in different areas?” he said.
And that’s probably the most dizzying effect of the current AI wave. According to Altman, artificial intelligence will adapt to the needs of humans and humans will adapt to what artificial intelligence can do. “This technology and society will evolve together. People will use it in different ways and for different reasons,” Altman said.