Emmett Shear, the former Twitch CEO who was named the interim chief of OpenAI on Monday, has warned that artificial intelligence is “intrinsically dangerous” and poses such a threat of causing “doom” that it “should cause you to sh-t your pants.”
Shear’s appointment at the ChatGPT maker capped a dizzying three days that began with Sam Altman’s sudden firing, which prompted his close ally and OpenAI’s president Greg Brockman to quit, and ended with the duo landing gigs at Microsoft — all between the market closing on Friday and reopening Monday morning.
Now, a resurfaced interview from June when Shear appeared on “The Logan Bartlett Show” revealed that the new OpenAI boss shares a similar outlook on AI as his predecessor, Altman, who has warned that the tech poses a “risk of extinction” to humanity on par with nuclear weapons and pandemics.
“Generally, I am very pro-technology and I really believe … that the upsides generally outweigh the downsides,” Shear, a self-described “techno-optimist,” told Bartlett, a software investor at Redpoint Ventures.
However, as AI becomes smarter, the “loop will get tighter and tighter and tighter, and faster and faster and faster, until it can fully self-improve itself. At which point, it will get very fast, very quickly,” Shear said.
Shear said that there’s as much as a 50% chance that AI can develop itself as such speed that it becomes impossible to control.
“And that kind of intelligence is just an intrinsically very dangerous thing,” he added. “Because intelligence is power.”
“That should cause you to sh-t your pants,” Shear said.
Altman has spoken on such a “doomsday” occurring — a topic he said he tries not to think about too much, though he reportedly prepares for with a stash of guns, gold and other survival goods.
In May, Altman joined 350 prominent figures in signing a one-sentence open letter organized by the nonprofit Center for AI Safety that said AI poses an existential threat.
“Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war,” the experts said in a 22-word statement signed off on by Altman, “Godfather of AI” Geoffrey Hinton, Google DeepMind’s Demis Hassabis and Anthropic CEO Dario Amodei, among others.
Altman, Hassabis and Amodei were part of a select group of experts who met with President Biden earlier this month to discuss potential AI risks and regulations, though AI-specific laws have yet to go into effect in the US.
In testimony on Capitol Hill at the time, Altman came out in favor of government regulations for the technology, among other safety guardrails.
Altman admitted at the Capitol Hill meeting in May that his worst fear is that AI could “cause significant harm to the world” without oversight.
Altman’s doomsday vision of AI gone wrong is commonplace in Silicon Valley, where a growing number of tech billionaires have poured money into post-apocalyptic contingency plans such as remote bunkers in recent years.
Some, such as former PayPal CEO Peter Thiel and Google co-founder Larry Page, have snapped up land in New Zealand.
Altman’s “backup plan” is to reportedly fly to New Zealand with Thiel if society crumbled.