The first thing we did to find out about Sam Altman’s life was ask ChatGPT, the revolutionary artificial intelligence system that he himself idealized through the company he founded in 2015, OpenAI.
“Sam Altman is an American entrepreneur and technologist, known for being the president of OpenAI and former CEO of Loopt,” the virtual robot that has been much talked about since it was launched on November 30th informed us.
Also in his answer, the robot made reference to the fact that he is considered an influential leader in the technological community and that he lectures on topics related to artificial intelligence.
A credible cover letter based on facts or generalizations, but which, as the system itself acknowledges, “makes no subjective statements about an individual’s personality or character.”
For this reason, we decided to consult slightly more traditional sources to get to know the man who is beginning to shape our present with a series of technological innovations such as the aforementioned ChatGPT and the DALL-E image generator.
First the non-artificial
Samuel H. Altman learned to program and disassemble one of Apple’s first computers, the Macintosh, when he was 8 years old, according to an interview with The New Yorker.
Altman said in the same interview that having a computer helped him with his sexuality, thanks to the conversations and groups he was able to participate in as a teenager.
At age 16, he told his parents he was gay and later spoke openly about it at school.
He entered Stanford University (in California, USA) to study computer science, but did not complete the course.
Together with some friends, they decided to dedicate themselves completely to developing their first idea, Loopt, an application to share their location with other people.
We are talking about the year 2005, long before WhatsApp existed and almost at the same time as the emergence of Facebook.
Loopt didn’t matter much, but it served as a springboard to launch Altman’s entrepreneurial career and opened the door to the world of big technology investments.
One of the companies that supported Loopt in its early days was Y Combinator (YC), one of the most prestigious and successful startup accelerators, which invested in innovations such as AirBNB and Dropbox.
Altman sold his first project for more than $40 million, which allowed him to expand his areas of interest and invest in several of the ideas under the YC umbrella, which he chaired between 2014 and 2019.
It was during this period that, together with Elon Musk, he created OpenAI, a company that allowed him to immerse himself in a world that aroused both fascination and fear in him: that of artificial intelligence.
OpenAI is a research company whose mission, it says on its website, is to ensure that “artificial intelligence benefits all of humanity” and does not eliminate it.
An idea in part driven by the fear expressed by Altman that artificial intelligence could become a lethal weapon against humans.
In the extensive report that Tad Friend wrote for The New Yorker magazine in 2016, Altman talks about the need for a merger as the best possible scenario for the future.
“Either we enslave artificial intelligence or it will enslave us,” he said.
An idea shared by Musk, who, although he dissociated himself from OpenAI in 2018 due to what he called conflicts of interest with his main company, Tesla, continues to invest in it and finance other projects that are in the same line of achieving the control of artificial intelligence systems.
One of them is NeuraLink, which wants to try to connect our brains to computers.
The now owner of Twitter believes that this is the only way human beings will be able to keep up with artificial intelligence and not be replaced by it when these systems feed back.
“Our way of speaking is going to sound very slow to computers,” he said, “a sort of whale sound,” clearly alluding to computers’ ability to process information in terabytes.
In the present
This fatalistic view of the future that led Musk and Altman to get involved in artificial intelligence is also what determined OpenAI’s strategy with regard to ChatGPT and DALL-E.
“One of the things we really believe is that the most responsible way to introduce these systems into society is gradually,” said Altman a few weeks ago in a conversation with StrictlyVC, a company that shows what is happening in Silicon Valley and in the world. technological.
“This is how we can get people, institutions and regulators to get to grips with it, think through the implications, get a feel for the technology and get an idea of what it can and cannot do, rather than dropping a super-powerful system all at once.”
A strategy that, according to the Dot CSV channel on YouTube, specializing in informing and explaining artificial intelligence, marks a turning point in what has been the trend of large technology companies over the last 20 years.
“There is a tendency for companies that are at the forefront of artificial intelligence to act on the Silicon Valley motto of moving fast and breaking things,” they comment, analyzing Altman’s words.
“This philosophy of being agile and releasing products without thinking about their implications.”
They emphasize that “in Sam’s case, it is not a question of acting quickly, but of bringing to the surface products that are still imperfect so that society gradually adapts to them”.
In a way, this is what is happening with ChatGPT and DALL-E, which are already receiving a lot of criticism from various quarters.
“ChatGPT is incredibly limited,” Altman acknowledged in a thread he posted to Twitter in December.
“But good enough at some things to create a false impression of greatness. It’s a mistake to trust him with anything important now.”
Altman concluded by saying that this is just a preview of what the progress will be and that there is still a lot of work to be done regarding its soundness and veracity.
Something similar to what he wrote on that same social network in reference to the questions that the chat is receiving about the prejudices or prejudices that he has in his answers.
“We know that ChatGPT has weaknesses in terms of bias and we are working to improve it”, he acknowledged.
“We’re working to improve the default settings to make them more neutral, and also so that users can make our systems behave according to their individual preferences within wider limits.”
“This is more difficult than it looks and it will take some time to achieve”, he justified at the end of his topic.
In the future
Altman will turn 38 in April and recently recalled a message from three years ago, in which he predicted “major technological developments to be achieved by 2025”.
Making nuclear fusion work at prototype scale sustainably, making artificial intelligence within reach of many people in industry, and making gene editing a cure for at least one of the most important diseases that affect us all.
In that tweet he mentions nuclear meltdown, his other major concern.
Altman has spent years investing heavily to boost the research and development efforts of Helion Energy, which seeks to produce clean, low-cost electricity using a fuel derived exclusively from water.
There are still two years left to see if one or more of Altman’s predictions will come true.
But of these, what is already becoming more tangible is that of artificial intelligence, whose first steps we are witnessing thanks to OpenAI.
The company that Altman idealized within a more global concept of what he believes to be the future and for which he spent years focusing his investments on technological and scientific advances.
A future that, according to his words in The New Yorker article, can be imagined to have similar values to the present that surrounds it.
“I love this country, the best country in the world”, he said referring to the United States, assuring that democracy only survives in an economy based on growth.
“Without the benefits of economic growth, the experiment in democracy will fail,” he said.
I will get it right?
Throughout his career, Altman managed to attract capital from strong investors to finance projects that he approved during his time at Y Combinator and in which he invested later.
Little is known exactly how much Altman has in terms of wealth, but recently there have been several announcements projecting his rise to the select group of billionaires.
OpenAI, which was born as a non-profit project, has become a hybrid company with limited benefits.
A few weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal mentioned in an article that OpenAI was on track to become one of the most prosperous startups in the United States, with a value of US$ 29 billion, despite the few benefits it generates.
Shortly after, the multi-year and multibillion-dollar agreement that the company reached with Microsoft became known, with the promise of having a strong impact in the not-too-distant future “in personal computing, the Internet, smart devices and the cloud”.
And this week we got to know the plus version of ChatGPT, a subscription service that is being tested in the US and pays US$ 20 per month.
The changes they guarantee will not affect their commitment to creating reliable and secure artificial intelligence systems and products.
I will get it right? This might be something we can ask ChatGPT for in the future.
This text was originally published here.
I have worked in the news industry for over 10 years and have been an author at News Bulletin 247 for the past 5 years. I mostly cover technology news and enjoy writing about the latest gadgets and devices. I am also a huge fan of music and enjoy attending live concerts whenever possible.