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OpenAI’s Sam Altman Advocates for an International Agency to Regulate AI

OpenAI’s Sam Altman Advocates for an International Agency to Regulate AI

As Artificial Intelligence (AI) continues to evolve at a rapid pace, concerns about its safety and the need for effective regulatory frameworks are becoming more pronounced. Elon Musk, cofounder of OpenAI and Grok, xAI, has warned that the technology poses a risk to humanity.

Against this backdrop, Sam Altman, cofounder and CEO of OpenAI, has advocated for an agency-based regulatory approach, drawing parallels between AI and the aviation industry in terms of safety testing requirements.

“I think there will come a time in the not-so-distant future, like we’re not talking decades and decades from now, where frontier AI systems are capable of causing significant global harm,” Altman said on the All-In podcast on Friday.

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He emphasized the potential for these systems to have a “negative impact way beyond the realm of one country” and stressed the need for an international body to oversee and ensure their safe deployment. Altman envisions an agency looking at the most powerful systems and ensuring reasonable safety testing.

Altman argues that an international agency would offer the flexibility needed to keep pace with AI’s fast evolution, unlike rigid national legislation which could quickly become outdated.

“The reason I’ve pushed for an agency-based approach for kind of like the big-picture stuff and not like a write-it-in-law is in 12 months it will all be written wrong,” he said.

He believes that even expert lawmakers would struggle to draft policies that could appropriately regulate AI developments 12 to 24 months from now. He also expressed concerns about both regulatory overreach and insufficient regulation, advocating for a balanced approach that adapts to rapid technological advancements.

“I’d be super nervous about regulatory overreach here. I think we get this wrong by doing way too much or a little too much. I think we can get this wrong by doing not enough,” Altman noted.

In Altman’s view, the regulatory needs of AI are akin to those of airplanes, where safety frameworks are essential to prevent significant loss of life.

“When like significant loss of human life is a serious possibility, like airplanes, or any number of other examples where I think we’re happy to have some sort of testing framework,” he said. “I don’t think about an airplane when I get on it. I just assume it’s going to be safe.”

Current legislative efforts to regulate AI vary globally. The European Union has approved the Artificial Intelligence Act, which categorizes AI risks and bans unacceptable use cases. In the United States, President Joe Biden signed an executive order last year calling for greater transparency from the world’s biggest AI models, and California is leading the charge on regulating AI with lawmakers considering more than 30 bills, according to Bloomberg.

However, Altman believes an international regulatory body could better address the global nature of AI’s impact, ensuring more consistent and adaptable oversight.

This push for international regulation is particularly relevant as AI development becomes a major point of competition between the United States and China. Both countries are leading efforts to dominate the AI market, both in the private sector.

On Monday, OpenAI launched GPT-4o, a groundbreaking AI model, alongside a desktop version of ChatGPT and a revamped user interface. This release underscores OpenAI’s commitment to making its acclaimed chatbot technology more accessible while enhancing user experience to unprecedented levels.

However, it contributes to the ongoing rapid advancement of AI, raising safety concerns amidst the lag in regulation. While Europe takes a proactive stance on AI regulation, the US and China are playing catch-up.

Altman’s proposal for international oversight of this burgeoning technology may see fruition, potentially spearheaded by the US and China, which are locked in fierce competition to dominate the AI market, both in the corporate realm and within their respective governments.

This week, the United States is set to initiate a series of diplomatic discussions with China in Geneva concerning the safety and risk standards of artificial intelligence. Yet, the two global powers have yet to reach a consensus on what constitutes safe deployment of the technologies they are advancing.

Senior administration officials disclosed during a briefing on Friday that representatives from the US and China will convene in Switzerland on Tuesday.

The US delegation, led by officials from the White House and State Department, will engage with a Chinese delegation co-led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Development and Reform Commission.

The discussions will primarily revolve around AI risk and safety, with a specific focus on advanced systems. Additionally, officials from both countries intend to exchange insights on their respective domestic efforts to mitigate AI risks.

However, the meeting is not billed to birth an international regulatory agency for AI.

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