Sam Altman thinks giving everyone ‘a slice of GPT’ could pay for UBI

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OpenAI CEO and Tools for Humanity Chairperson Sam Altman believes the progress being carved out by today’s frontier artificial intelligence (AI) models could lead to a vast restructuring of socioeconomics. 

Altman recently unveiled a vision wherein treating “compute” as a resource and asset, could supplant monetary income as a means of providing a universal basic income (UBI), during a recent interview on the All-In podcast.

While the interview touched on a number of subjects, it quickly turned to the dangers of AI and how humanity would cope with threats ranging from AI-wrought human extinction to employment displacement. On the former subject, Altman acknowledged that there could come a time when AI models were sufficiently capable of posing such threats.

His solution is a global oversight board with the capacity to regulate the largest projects, thereby leaving startups relatively unfettered by potentially growth-stifling laws.

“I think there will come a time, in the not super distant future … where the frontier AI systems are capable of causing significant global harm. And, for those kinds of systems … I would like to see some sort of international agency that is looking at the most powerful systems and ensuring reasonable safety testing.”

Altman assured the All-In team that GPT-4, OpenAI’s current state-of-the-art production model, posed no “significant” threat to human lives.

On the jobs front, Altman is a well known advocate for UBI. Aside from OpenAI, he also helms Tools for Humanity, a firm whose main product is the Worldcoin cryptocurrency and identity verification platform. Worldcoin is given to anyone willing to verify their humanity. After which, holders receive a monthly token stipend.

Speaking to the All-In team, Altman decried government poverty assistance programs as mostly ineffective and called for a simple, respectful approach to UBI:

“I’m not a super fan of how the government has handled most policies designed to help poor people, and I kind of believe that if you could just give people money they would make good decisions and the market would do its thing.”

He went on to point out that giving people money is not going to solve all problems,” adding that it’s “certainly not going to make people happy.” But ventured that “it might solve some problems and it might give people a better horizon with which to help themselves.”

As to why he’s such an advocate for UBI, Altman said that he and his colleagues realized back in 2016, when they began taking AI seriously, that it could have far-reaching effects. They began conducting studies and found that UBI showed promise.

Now, Altman believes that the UBI paradigm itself could be ripe for an upending:

“2016 was a very long time ago. … I wonder if the future looks something more like universal basic compute than universal basic income and everybody gets a slice of GPT-7’s compute and they can use it, they can resell it, they can donate it to somebody to use for cancer research.

Related: Apple finalizing deal with OpenAI for ChatGPT iPhone integration: Report


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