Sam Altman (OpenAI, ChaptGPT), the entrepreneur who wants to advance humanity through artificial intelligence

Here we are in 2017, at the stage of the TechCrunch Disrupt event, a great annual technological mass that takes place in San Francisco. To the journalist who asked him if the concern about the danger posed by artificial intelligence is very reasonable, in the face of all the more serious dangers that burden humanity, Sam Altman answered with a shrug.

Not about panicking, just being careful! Even at its current level, artificial intelligence already poses risks, from biases in machine learning algorithms to autonomous weapons and misinformation. Not to mention that our species is particularly bad at predicting exponential trends. Months before the first manned flight of an airplane, some of the best engineers in the field said it would be at least fifty years before we would see the first manned flight. We are undoubtedly closer to a general artificial intelligence than we believe. ยป

At the helm of Y Combinator

If, more than five years later, artificial general intelligence, capable of competing with human thought, still has not appeared, the recent advancement of ChatGPT shows how technology is developing rapidly, with many opportunities, but the problems, at least partially prove Sam Altman right. Ironically, it is his own organization, OpenAI, founded to prevent the development of artificial intelligence in a way that does not favor humanity, that is behind the now famous chatbot.

Like many of his peers in Silicon Valley, Sam Altman, born in 1985, caught the computer bug early. By the age of eight, he had already learned the basics of code and knew how to take apart and rebuild a Mac. Precocious talents that led him to study computer science at Stanford, a university he left before graduating to launch his own startup, Loopt, at age 19 with two friends. A geolocated social network where he managed to raise 30 million dollars, and enter Y Combinator, a prestigious startup accelerator in Silicon Valley.

While continuing to develop Loopt, he befriended two of the accelerator’s co-founders, Paul Graham and Jessica Livingstone, and began working with them. So he advised several entrepreneurs, including the creators of Airbnb and Dropbox, then two young shoots who were members of Y Combinator. In 2012, Loopt was sold to Green Dot Corporation, an American bank, for 43 million dollars, and Sam Altman devoted himself full time to Y Combinator, which he headed in 2014.

Armed with his new responsibilities, he instilled several strategic changes, choosing to favor startups operating in areas he believed would benefit humanity the most, such as energy, quantum computing and, of course, intelligence. artificial. He also launched the YC research fund, a non-profit organization responsible for funding research into the craziest projects, for which he gave ten million dollars from his own pocket.

His personal fortune is estimated between 200 and 250 million dollars by the American media.

Promote ethical AI

In 2015, together with his friend Elon Musk, he founded another non-profit organization, this time responsible for specifically promoting research on artificial intelligence and ensuring that it benefits everyone. humanity, instead of remaining the preserve of a few large corporations. OpenAI was born. Four years later, and after Elon Musk jumped ship, Sam Altman quit his job at Y Combinator to focus entirely on OpenAI.

In the same year, the logic of society changed. From a non-profit organization responsible for spreading artificial intelligence to as many people as possible, it has become a real business, attracting large investors such as Microsoft (which spends a billion dollars on the company), where it promises a juicy return on investment. If OpenAI thus puts its humanist ideals in the closet to put itself at the service of its shareholders, the influx of fresh money allows it to make amazing progress, where the two newest avatar is Dall-E, the image creation, and ChatGPT.

There will be scary times as we approach a general artificial intelligence, as well as major disruptions, but the potential benefits are such that they are worth the challenges that will get us there. “, Sam Altman said on Twitter recently, adding that ChatGPT will soon look like ” boring in the face of what artificial intelligence can do.

A product of Silicon Valley

Like his friend Peter Thiel, Sam Altman is a pure product of Silicon Valley ideology, marked by a strong techno-optimism, with the conviction that technical progress is the best way to work for to the well-being and for the protection of mankind. Unlike Peter Thiel, Sam Altman took a stand against Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020, but unlike many of his colleagues who simply demonize or demonize Trump voters, Sam Altman came out to meet them in campaign in 2016 and wrote a long article. about his interaction with them.

Like his colleague Elon Musk, he is also very attached to the defense of freedom of expression: ” I found I was more comfortable debating controversial ideas in Beijing than in San Francisco “, he wrote in his blog after returning from a trip to China at the end of 2017, proving that the lack of open-mindedness that Silicon Valley is getting will limit its ability to change. A speech that echoes Peter’s speech Thiel, who in 2018 left San Francisco for Los Angeles, denounced the sectarian spirit and the ideological conformity that he believed reigned in Silicon Valley.

Convinced that climate change poses a major threat to humanity, Sam Altman also devotes part of his fortune to supporting the energies of tomorrow, as illustrated by his recent investment in Helion, a company specializing in nuclear fusion.

Understandably, Sam Altman is also a supporter of the singularity theory, postulating that artificial intelligence will one day surpass the human mind, a prospect he seems to find both exciting and terrifying. In the meantime, OpenAI may prove to be a goose that lays the golden egg, as illustrated by Microsoft’s willingness to integrate ChatGPT into some of its products, a desire to which OpenAI has been eager to respond. Because as a great representative of Silicon Valley, Sam Altman knows how to combine his humanist idealism with a keen business sense.