The gay man behind Chat GPT says AI could revolutionize the world but could also destroy it

Sam Altman Photo: YouTube screenshot

Sam Altman, the gay CEO of the massively influential artificial intelligence (AI) company OpenAI, testified to Congress this week that, despite its many useful applications, AI needs to be regulated or else it could “cause significant harm to the world.”

OpenAI, the tech driving the popular ChatGPT chatbot and DALL-E image generator, has already revolutionized writing and art, leading to worries of the tech cannibalizing creators’ works, replacing humans in numerous work fields, and allowing people to create convincing “deepfakes” of famous people doing and saying things they actually never did.

Congressmembers worry that AI could also help perpetuate “false information, data privacy, copyright abuses, and cybersecurity” risks, The Washington Post reported. Some have worried about its potential to create widespread cyber-scams and disinformation floods, causing AI to be “riskier perhaps to human survival than the advent of nuclear weapons.”

These potential abuses have led Democrats and Republicans to consider creating a government oversight agency that would, as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said, “deliver transparent, responsible AI while not stifling critical and cutting edge innovation.”

During his testimony, Altman said, “One of my areas of greatest concern [is] the more general ability of these [AI] models to manipulate, to persuade, to provide sort of one-on-one interactive disinformation,” especially when it comes to elections. Altman said that candidates or companies could use algorithms to learn an individual’s political leanings, and then tailor misleading messages that might sway them into taking actions they might not otherwise.

Similarly, New York University professor emeritus Gary Marcus (who also testified), said that — as Google, Microsoft, and other tech giants rush to embrace AI into their products — companies are rushing to release AI-powered products without considering their potential impacts, creating a “perfect storm of corporate irresponsibility, widespread deployment, lack of regulation, and inherent unreliability.”

“We made a mistake by trusting the technology industry to self-police social media,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) said in a Post interview.

By the time the U.S. government began regulating social media, it was “already deeply enmeshed with the U.S. economy, politics, media, and culture,” the publication wrote. “I just can’t believe that we are on the precipice of making the same mistake,” Murphy added.

Echoing Murphy’s worries, gay Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) said, “AI is going to remake society in profound ways, and we are not ready for that.” The worries go beyond U.S. companies, as foreign competitors like China invest heavily in the technology for possible spying and propaganda purposes.

To stop potential abuses, Altman supported creating a government agency that could help set safety standards and audits to prevent AI from breaking copyright laws, instructing people how to break laws, illegally collecting user data, and pushing false advertising. This agency would regulate AI products similarly to how the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees ingestible products and medications.

OpenAI itself has also committed to limiting the personal data that its products collect from users, such as collecting images of users’ faces or maintaining easily identifiable records of individual users’ input to AI models. But during his testimony, Altman also seemed reluctant to accept all forms of government oversight.

He seemed opposed to requiring companies to reveal open-source information on how their AI-powered products collect data. He wouldn’t commit to re-tooling OpenAI to avoid using artists’ copyrighted works, their voices, or their likenesses without first receiving artists’ consent. He also suggested it was likely that AI-powered chatbots would soon start advertising custom-picked products to their users.

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