OpenAI Chief Says His ‘Worst Fear’ Is That Tech Causes ‘Significant Harm To The World’

Sam Altman, the chief executive of the company behind ChatGPT, urged lawmakers to install guardrails for AI technology.

Sam Altman, the chief executive of the company behind ChatGPT and other artificial intelligence programs, said on Tuesday that his “worst fear” is advancing technology causing “significant harm to the world.”

Altman, who leads the San Francisco-based OpenAI, appeared before lawmakers as part of a Senate hearing on artificial intelligence.

But he broke with many of his Silicon Valley peers, calling for government regulation and guardrails to address growing concerns AI could be used to replace workers and spread disinformation.

“We think that regulatory intervention by governments will be critical to mitigate the risks of increasingly powerful models,” he said in his prepared remarks.

The hearing came amid an ongoing tour to speak about the growth of AI, which has taken the world by storm in recent months. ChatGPT has already wreaked havoc on schools and universities and AI-generated photos of former President Donald Trump being arrested portended the hazy future of fact-checking what you see with your own eyes. Film and TV writers have named AI as a prime concern during the ongoing writers strike.

Altman met with the Biden administration earlier this month and had dinner with dozens of lawmakers on Monday, voicing his support for a new agency that could create safety standards and guardrails for AI. But he said OpenAI would continue to release such technology, saying he believed “the benefits of the tools we have deployed so far vastly outweigh the risks.”

Altman went on to acknowledge the threat of unfettered AI, but argued his company had been “very clear-eyed” as it developed technology to mitigate risks.

“My worst fears, are that we cause significant — we the field, the technology, the industry — cause significant harm to the world,” Altman said Tuesday. “I think if this technology goes wrong, it can go quite wrong. And we want to be vocal about that, we want to work with the government to prevent that from happening.”

Lawmakers have voiced concerns about technology time and time again, particularly the spread of social media, but have largely failed to regulate the industry. Some have voiced similar concerns with AI, including California Representative Ted Lieu (Democrat), who said he was “freaked out” in January at the abilities of ChatGPT.

On Tuesday, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Democrat, Conneticut), who chairs the panel, said lawmakers would hold several hearings on the harms and boons of AI. He pledged the government would, eventually, “write the rules” for its use.

“Our goal is to demystify and hold accountable those new technologies to avoid some of the mistakes of the past,” Blumenthal said. “Congress failed to meet the moment on social media.”

But Big Tech has fiercely lobbied against any regulation, a pattern already continuing with AI after the European Union proposed a sweeping effort to govern the use of the technology.


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