ChatGPT developer Altman visits Berlin and Munich and meets Olaf Scholz

ChatGPT developer Altman visits Berlin and Munich and meets Olaf Scholz

Dhe man who compared his invention to the atomic bomb is a long time coming. Sam Altman, head of Open AI, the company behind the controversial chatbot ChatGPT, is in demand like hardly anyone these days. And so the white leather armchair on the green-lit stage in the Audimax of the Technical University of Munich (TUM) remains unoccupied for an hour.

Altman had previously visited the Federal Chancellor in Berlin, hence the delay this Thursday, which goes well beyond the academic quarter of an hour. All the more entertaining is the appearance of the boyish-looking American, who, despite his 38 years, could easily pass as a student on campus in a T-shirt and open shirt.

man behind a powerful technique

There’s no question that TUM has scored a coup with Altman’s guest appearance. A few months ago, with the release of ChatGPT, Altman’s Open AI triggered real hype about artificial intelligence (AI) that can simulate human voices, compose music or help diagnose skin cancer. It’s a powerful technology, but it also has the potential to change history the way nuclear weapons did.

Apart from the chancellor’s visit, Altman’s speech in Munich is his only appearance in Germany. The topics in the TUM lecture hall are those of the Chancellery in Berlin: “We talked a lot about the future of AI and regulatory issues,” Altman tells the students from his conversation with Olaf Scholz (SPD). Altman does not have a clear answer as to which values ​​regulation should be based on. “I think artificial intelligence should be regulated,” he says, because “we should make sure that what we send out into the world makes sense.”

There is no longer any mention of the threat he made the day before in London. Altman had said in front of journalists that the announced regulations of the European Union could be followed by a withdrawal of Open AI from Europe: The current draft of the European AI law is over-regulation, and “if we can’t meet the requirements, we will cease operations.”

Altman knows the regulatory debate

In Munich Altman sounds much more authoritative. “I think there is a version of the European AI law that can be good,” he says now, but the plans for this are still pretty vague. “We’ll see how this all turns out.”

The EU agreed on a draft set of rules at the beginning of the month. The AI ​​Regulation Act requires companies developing Generative AI like ChatGPT to disclose any copyrighted material they use, and officials from Parliament, the EU Council and the Commission are working out the final details. In addition, the EU wants to persuade companies to make a voluntary commitment.

Full house: the Audimax of the TU Munich during Sam Altman's performance

Full house: the Audimax of the TU Munich during Sam Altman’s performance

Image: dpa

Altman knows these discussions from his home country. A few days ago, in a hearing before the US Senate, he himself explained how the technology could be misused, for example, to manipulate elections using disinformation campaigns. In an open letter, a number of scientists suggested taking a break from the further development of AI. More than 1000 signatories backed this proposal – including Tesla boss Elon Musk. Speaking to the students in Munich, Altman doubted that a breather could help: “Six months? A year, two years? And what do we do then?”

Altman was one of a half-dozen co-founders of Open AI in 2015 that included Musk. Even then, Altman made it clear in one of his rare interviews that the merging of man and machine had long since begun, with merging being “our best scenario”: “We enslave the AI ​​or it enslaves us.”

Munich receives Altman almost like a pop star

Altman fell out with his then business partner Musk in 2018 when he wanted to bring Open AI under his sole control and Altman meanwhile brought Microsoft on board. After all, Open AI required gigantic computing capacities and Microsoft was able to deliver them. Since then, Altman has been on a mission to develop artificial intelligence (AI) that will benefit all of humanity.

Altman, who grew up in Missouri, moved to Silicon Valley 20 years ago and, after dropping out of computer science studies, quickly made a career in the local start-up scene. Today he is revered as an investor and mentor. For many years he worked for the start-up incubator Y Combinator, which supports young companies in their start-up phase and of which he was CEO until 2019. This has given rise to billion-dollar companies such as the room-sharing and tourism platform Airbnb or the payment service provider Stripe.

The smart Silicon Valley billionaire is also well received in the Munich auditorium. He encourages the students: “This is the best time to build something exciting,” he calls out to them. There is applause and cheers. Like a pop star.

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