The OpenAI saga will continue and may well provide further plot twists, but certain illusions have by now been dispelled. Virtual and intangible, digital technologies have brought great progress, but have forged ahead on the flying carpet of three utopias, which have caused enormous damage.
Sam Altman is once again in charge of the company. The conspirators who forced him out have exited stage right (apart from one). OpenAI engineers and scientists, pioneers on the new frontier of generative artificial intelligence, are resuming the adventure that began with ChatGPT after having risked being disbanded and scattered in an unprecedented way. The founder returns victorious. Without him, OpenAI would be nothing but an empty husk. His desire to fully embrace Artificial General Intelligence, an artificial intelligence similar to that of a human, and to increase Microsoft’s involvement, has prevailed over the pessimistic predictions of the conspirators who expressed their fears of unethical use of AI through the ideological rigidity of their philosophy: efficient altruism.
The OpenAI saga will continue and may well provide further plot twists, but certain illusions have by now been dispelled. Virtual and intangible, digital technologies have brought great progress, but have forged ahead on the flying carpet of three utopias that have caused enormous damage.
First it was internet democracy, promoted by John Perry Barlow at the dawn of the worldwide web with his famous manifesto, ”A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” (1996). A few years later there were regrets, such as this one from Twitter co-founder Evan Williams: “I thought once everybody could speak freely and exchange information and ideas, the world is automatically going to be a better place. I was wrong.”
Then, there was the second utopia: the concept that Google, Facebook and the others only needed to provide social networks and search engines to make us better human beings. Altman took this failure (companies going from the logic of the common good to that of maximizing profits, with consequent distortions and increase in inequality) as his point of departure in 2015 when he gave his trailblazing artificial intelligence company a nonprofit, philanthropic structure precisely to protect it from the temptations of turbo-capitalism.
The new OpenAI board will investigate and decide whether and by how much the company has betrayed its ethical obligations. However, it is already clear from the chaos resulting from philanthropic governance that Altman’s promise to develop an unsupervised artificial intelligence “that benefits all of humanity,” since it is created by a company without shareholders or profits, and “belonging to the citizens of the world,”* is the third utopia of the digital era.
*Note: Although accurately translated, this quote could not be sourced.