Just six months ago, few outside of Silicon Valley had heard of OpenAI, the company that makes the artificial intelligence chatbot ChatGPT. Now, this application is used daily by over 100 million users, and some of those people use it more often than Google. Within just months of its release, it has become the fastest-growing app in history. ChatGPT can write essays and code. It can ace the bar exam, write poems and song lyrics, and summarize emails. It can give advice, scour the internet for information, and diagnose an illness given a set of blood results, all in a matter of seconds. And all of the responses it generates are eerily similar to those of an actual human being.
For many people, it feels like we’re on the brink of something world-changing. That the technology that powers ChatGPT, and the emergent AI revolution more broadly, will be the most critical and rapid societal transformation in the history of the world to date. If that sounds like hyperbole, don’t take it from me: Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai said AI’s impact will be more profound than the discovery of fire. Computer scientist and Coursera co-founder Andrew Ng said AI is the new electricity. Some say it’s the new printing press. Others say it’s more like the invention of the wheel, or the airplane. Many predict the AI revolution will make the internet seem like a small step. And just last month, The Atlantic ran a story comparing AI to nuclear weapons.
But there’s a flip side to all of this optimism, and it’s a dark one. Many smart people believe that AI could make human beings obsolete. Thousands of brilliant technologists—people like Elon Musk and Steve Wozniak—are so concerned about this software that last month they called for an immediate pause on training any AI systems more powerful than the current version of ChatGPT. One of the pioneers of AI, Eliezer Yudkowsky, claims that if AI continues on its current trajectory, it will destroy life on Earth as we know it. He recently wrote, “If somebody builds a too-powerful AI, under present conditions, I expect that every single member of the human species and all biological life on Earth dies shortly thereafter.”
Which is it? Is AI the end of the world? Or the dawn of a new one? To answer that question for us today: Sam Altman. Sam is the co-founder and CEO of OpenAI, the company that makes ChatGPT, which makes him arguably one of the most powerful people in Silicon Valley, and if you believe the hype about AI, the world. I ask him: is the technology that powers ChatGPT going to fundamentally transform life on Earth as we know it? In what ways? How will AI affect our basic humanity, our jobs, our understanding of intelligence, our relationships? And are the people in charge of this powerful technology, people like himself, ready for the responsibility?
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