The CEO of OpenAI has admitted that he is surprised by how well the technology is working, especially in the face of extreme excitement and hype.

Speaking at Dreamforce 2023, Sam Altman and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff discussed a wide number of AI topics, but the OpenAI founder admitted to some pleasant shocks at how his company’s work is performing.

“The biggest surprise is just that it’s all working,” Altman said, drawing laughter from Benioff and the audience. “We want to have the smartest, most capable, most customizable models out there.”

AI future

Altman went on to admit that the amount of interest in AI has also taken him by surprise, particularly in the scale of use cases that have been seen so far.

“The level of enthusiasm, hopefulness and excitement around the world, of course, balanced with wanting to successfully address the downsides (of AI) – is really extraordinary to see,” he noted.

“I thought maybe this was just a tech, Silicon Valley phenomenon, but seeing what everyone around the world is doing with the technology, and how they’ve incorporated it into their lives, was really cool.”

Having been quizzed by Benioff as to his favorite AI-themed science-fiction film (Her, where Joaquin Phoenix’s character falls in love with a virtual girlfriend), Altman did seem to suggest he believed some form of new governing agency to monitor AI could be necessary

There is, he noted, a possibility of needing to create a framework that can, “deal with the short-term and long-term challenges” posed by AI, adding that “getting something going – even if just focused on insight and not oversight – I think would be great.”

He also admitted that he expected the surveillance state issues caused by AI to lead to a rise in surveillance in the near future – and did not think he could offer a solution just yet.

“I don’t see a world where, if AI is as powerful as we think, and people can do significant harm with it, I can see a world where we don’t have less surveillance,” Altman said. “I don’t think that’s a good thing.”

But overall, the OpenAI CEO did say he was hopeful that the giant strides already made by AI can continue in the future.

“We are empiricists; we know we are going to be surprised,” Altman noted. “We’re never surprised – we just try to meet reality where it is and follow the technology where it can go.”

“I have no delusions that anything is going to protect us or anyone if AI goes wrong,” he added. “I think it’s silly that’s what people assume it’s for. It was just like a boyhood dream that stuck.”

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