The OpenAI’s CEO Envisions a Universal Income Society to Compensate Jobs Replaced by AI

IBL News | New York

Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI, an organization that has moved at record speed from a small research nonprofit into a multibillion-dollar company, with the help of Microsoft, showed his contradictions in an interview with The Wall Street Journal last week.

He is featured as an entrepreneur who made a fortune investing in young startups, owner of the three mansions in California, and a family office now employing dozens to manage those properties along with investments in companies such as Worldcoin, Helion Energy, and Retro.

Sam Altman said he fears what could happen if AI is rolled out into society recklessly and argues that is uniquely dangerous to have profits be the main driver of developing powerful AI models.

Meanwhile he says that his ultimate mission is to build AGI (artificial general intelligence) while stating a goal of forging a new world order in which machines free people to pursue more creative work. In his vision, universal basic income will help compensate for jobs replaced by AI and humanity will love AI so much that an advanced chatbot could represent “an extension of your will.”

In the long run, he wants to set up a global governance structure that would oversee decisions about the future of AI and gradually reduce the power OpenAI’s executive team has over its technology.

“Backers say his brand of social-minded capitalism makes him the ideal person to lead OpenAI. Others, including some who’ve worked for him, say he’s too commercially minded and immersed in Silicon Valley thinking to lead a technological revolution that is already reshaping business and social life,” writes The Wall Street Journal.

“OpenAI’s headquarters — with 400 employees —, in San Francisco’s Mission District, evoke an affluent New Age utopia more than a nonprofit trying to save the world. Stone fountains are nestled amid succulents and ferns in nearly all of the sun-soaked rooms.”

Elon Musk, one of OpenAI’s critics who co-founded the nonprofit in 2015 but parted ways in 2018 after a dispute over its control and direction, said that OpenAI had been founded as an open-source nonprofit “to serve as a counterweight to Google, but now it has become a closed source, maximum-profit company effectively controlled by Microsoft.” 

Billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel, a close friend of Mr. Altman’s and an early donor to the nonprofit, has long been a proponent of the idea that humans and machines will one day merge.

Behind OpenAI there is a for-profit arm, OpenAI LP, that reports to the nonprofit parent.

According to some employees, the partnership of Sam Altman with Satya Nadella, the Microsoft CEO, started in 2019, contradicted OpenAI’s initial pledge to develop artificial intelligence outside the corporate world. They saw the deal as a Faustian bargain.

Microsoft initially invested $1 billion in OpenAI and obtained exclusivity using Microsoft’s giant computer servers, via its Azure cloud service, to train its AI models, giving the tech giant the sole right to license OpenAI’s technology for future products.

Altman’s other projects include Worldcoin, a company he co-founded that seeks to give cryptocurrency to every person on earth.

He has put almost all his liquid wealth in recent years in two companies. He has put $375 million into Helion Energy, which is seeking to create carbon-free energy from nuclear fusion and is close to creating “legitimate net-gain energy in a real demo,” Mr. Altman said.

He has also put $180 million into Retro, which aims to add 10 years to the human lifespan through “cellular reprogramming, plasma-inspired therapeutics and autophagy,” or the reuse of old and damaged cell parts.