Human beings will continue to decide “what should happen in the world” regardless of the rise of artificial intelligence, OpenAI’s Sam Altmann said Thursday at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.
The CEO of the company behind ChatGPT said AI was “good at some things but not good at a life-and-death situation.”
It’s “a system that is sometimes right, sometimes creative, often totally wrong — you actually don’t want that to drive your car. But you’re happy for it to help you brainstorm what to write about or help you with code that you get to check.”
ChatGPT is one of several generative AI systems that can create content in response to user prompts and which experts say could transform the global economy. But there are also dystopian fears that AI could destroy humanity or, at least, lead to widespread job losses.
Altman took a more optimistic view. He said people had found ways to make themselves more productive using generative AI and they also understood “what not to use it for.” Generative AI gives humans “better tools” and “access to a lot more capability” but “we’re still very focused on each other,” he added.
AI is a major focus of this year’s gathering in Davos, with multiple sessions exploring the impact of the technology on society, jobs and the broader economy.
In a report Sunday, the International Monetary Fund predicted that AI will affect almost 40% of jobs around the world, “replacing some and complementing others,” but potentially worsening income inequality overall.
Speaking on the same panel as Altman, moderated by CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said AI was not at a point of replacing human beings but rather augmenting them.
As an example, Benioff cited a Gucci call center in Milan that saw revenue and productivity surge after workers started using Salesforce’s AI software in their interactions with customers.
Notwithstanding optimism over the technology’s potential, both Benioff and Altman stressed the need for regulating AI systems to guard against some of the potential existential threats posed by the technology.
“I think it’s good that people are afraid of the downsides of this technology,” Altman said. “I think it’s good that we’re talking about it, I think it’s good that we and others are being held to a high standard.”
Altman also weighed in on a New York Times copyright lawsuit against OpenAI — referring to it as a “strange thing” — and his abrupt firing and then swift rehiring by the OpenAI board over a few days in November, which he described as “so ridiculous.”
“At some point, you just have to laugh,” he said.
Olesya Dmitracova contributed reporting.