Where Altman Meets Macron: The Quest For AI Alignment, Between Private And Public
The inventor of ChatGPT is in Europe to try to force leaders on the Continent to face hard questions about what artificial intelligence is bringing to our world, whether they like it or not.
PARIS — Six months ago, Sam Altman’s name was only known to a small circle of technophiles. Earlier this week, when he came to France, he was received by President Emmanuel Macron and the Minister of Economy, and he is back in Paris on Friday to make other connections. On his Twitter account, he described his trip as a "World Tour," like a pop star.
Altman is the CEO of OpenAI, the U.S. company that created ChatGPT, the natural language artificial intelligence tool that has literally shaken the world. With 200 million users worldwide in just six months, ChatGPT has broken all sorts of records for the speed of technology adoption.
The world of Tech is prone to trends, and not all of them last. However, to quote Gilles Babinet, co-president of the National Digital Council in France, who has recently published an essay on the history of the internet titled Comment les hippies, Dieu et la science ont inventé Internet("How the Internet Was Invented by Hippies, God and Science"), we are currently facing an "anthropological break."
In other words, a qualitative leap that will impact all human activities, and even the political organization of our societies — with both positive and negative results.
With such a significant breakthrough, concerns have quickly emerged, some of which have been voiced by researchers and entrepreneurs themselves. Some have futilely called for a moratorium. Calls for "regulation" are almost a natural reflex, especially in Europe, where technological advancements are too often simply experienced rather than invented.
Altman himself advocates for state regulation that allows for the emergence of a technology that has entered an exponential phase of development, while ensuring the prevention of abuse and negative consequences. However, during his visit to London this week, he issued a warning: If the impending European regulation is too restrictive, he will not hesitate to withdraw his software from the continent.
Could they cooperate on this issue when technology lies at the heart of their confrontation?
An even more radical figure in the debate is Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google who now leads a powerful defense technology fund. He believes that regulation should be left in the hands of tech players rather than politicians who, in his opinion, have no understanding of it whatsoever.
Emmanuel Macron's official Twitter account
Self-regulation or cooperation
However, the idea of regulation is widely shared. No serious individual considers allowing the players in such an existential sector to self-regulate.
The recent G7 summit in Hiroshima even established a global think tank on AI, and some saw it as a prefiguration of an international authority similar to the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency.
However, two pitfalls arise: the first is the Cold War climate between China and the United States. Could they cooperate on this issue when technology lies at the heart of their confrontation?
The second concern is raised by Schmidt: How many elected officials or technocrats in our countries have an actual grasp of the subject? In 2018, the Chinese Communist Party's Politburo dedicated an entire session to artificial intelligence, a wise move.
Such evangelization is necessary in our societies, to be sure that we are not solely driven by fears and fantasies — and can become more than simply passive recipients.
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