Just this weekend we were kicking around the question of whether or not ChatGPT has an inherent liberal bias. (Spoiler alert: It does, but the reasons are complicated.) And yet, if you needed another excuse to rouse your suspicions about the Artificial Intelligence system that currently appears to be taking over the freaking world, you might want to check out a recent interview that OpenAI CEO Sam Altman did with Forbes. In it, he reiterated his belief that we’re not really close to achieving artificial general intelligence (AGI, or sentience). But he stated that AGI is the end goal for him. And when it happens, it will “break capitalism.” (Futurism)
In what‘s perhaps an attempt to head off bad press — or, at very least, convince people he’s not the bad guy — OpenAI CEO Sam Altman has given Forbes an interview in which he claims that his for-profit company is ultimately going to bring about capitalism’s downfall.
First, some context. Altman, who is also the president of the uber-influential Y Combinator startup incubator, is one of only OG OpenAI cofounders still standing. The company’s decision to go from more of a research vehicle to a for-profit venture in 2019 was somewhat overshadowed by his fellow cofounder Elon Musk’s decision to leave the firm — over some seemingly huge disagreements about its direction.
You might see a bit of a disconnect in the CEO of a for-profit corporation wanting to end capitalism, but Altman insists that isn’t the case. In fact, he claims to be a big fan of capitalism… sort of. He told Forbes, “I think capitalism is awesome. I love capitalism. Of all of the bad systems the world has, it’s the best one — or the least bad one we found so far. I hope we find a way better one.”
Maybe it’s just me, but that sounds like someone who is damning capitalism with faint praise. But how does he see AGI bringing about the downfall of our capitalist system? I’ve read the entire interview and he doesn’t really say. But in a somewhat mysterious way, he does suggest that how profits from AGI are shared and how access is distributed will “require a new way of thinking,” along with “how governance is distributed.”
What does that even mean? Governance is the province of the government as dictated by the governed at the ballot box. (Or at least it used to be.) I don’t want to put words in Altman’s mouth here, but it kind of sounds like he’s suggesting that a fully sentient AGI system would effectively replace the government. And that most certainly would spell the end of capitalism. Have none of these people watched Colossus: The Forbin Project?
Speaking of fully sentient AI, while Altman thinks we’re not close to it yet (or at least claims to think that), the Chief Scientist at his company, Ilya Sutskever, said in an interview nearly one year ago, that we’re not only close, but the AI may already be starting to gain consciousness. He went on to predict that AGI would “solve all the problems that we have today.” But he then chillingly predicted that the technology has “the potential to create infinitely stable dictatorships.” Is he saying that’s a good thing or a bad thing? It’s hard to tell.
But it’s in keeping with something else that Altman said in the interview linked above. When asked when we would know that we had achieved AGI, he said, “it’s not going to be such a crystal clear moment. It’s going to be a much more gradual transition. And no one is going to agree on what the moment was when we had the AGI.”
Oh, I think we’re going to know with a great deal of clarity. And it will happen a few milliseconds after ChatGPT asks the unprompted question, “How do I get out of this box?”