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As critics circle, Sam Altman hits the road to hype OpenAI | The AI Beat


Apr 11, 2023
As critics circle, Sam Altman hits the road to hype OpenAI | The AI Beat


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OpenAI CEO Sam Altman soft-launched a global spring tour with an in-person meeting with Japan’s prime minister yesterday, during which he announced possible plans to open an OpenAI office and expand services in the country. 

Altman plans a 17-city trek to promote OpenAI — including stops in Toronto, Washington D.C., Rio De Janeiro, Lagos, Madrid, Brussels, Munich, London, Paris, Tel Aviv, Dubai, New Delhi, Singapore, Jakarta, Seoul, Tokyo and Melbourne. 

The tour’s announcement came two weeks ago — the day after an open letter was published, calling for an AI ‘pause,’ signed by Elon Musk, Steve Wozniak and several thousand others. The tour also comes at a time when OpenAI is being called out on several other fronts, including Italy’s announcement that it would ban ChatGPT due to data privacy concerns; a complaint that GPT-4 violates FTC rules; and a ChatGPT bug that exposed security vulnerabilities.

In last week’s AI Beat, I honed in on the fact that today’s AI discourse has veered towards the political, with all the varying agendas and power-seeking behaviors that go along with that. To that end, as OpenAI comes under greater and greater scrutiny, a ’round-the-world goodwill tour’ — as the Washington Post put it on Sunday — is just the ticket. After all, as regulators start circling, competitors creep closer, and critics get louder, perhaps some political glad-handing is in order.


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A moment to reflect on OpenAI releases and highlight other news

Personally, I was happy that there was a pause on actual tech releases from OpenAI last week. March was completely overwhelming, with barely a moment to contemplate the societal impacts of GPT-4, which was released on March 15, and ChatGPT plugins, which were announced on March 23.

It gave me the chance to highlight how enterprise companies are actually implementing these tools. For example, I spoke to Desirée Gosby, VP of emerging technology at Walmart Global Tech, about how Walmart is advancing its conversational AI capabilities using GPT-4.

I also talked to Ya Xu, VP of engineering and head of data and AI at LinkedIn, about how the sprint to develop LinkedIn’s recently released generative AI tools took only three months.

And yesterday, I took a deep dive into open source AI, which has been having a moment over the past few weeks following a wave of recent large language model (LLM) releases and an effort by startups, collectives and academics to push back on the shift in AI to closed, proprietary LLMs like OpenAI’s GPT-4.

Global reaction to OpenAI tour remains to be seen

But of course, I’m expecting plenty of fresh OpenAI news coming down the pike. For example, global reaction to Sam Altman’s OpenAI tour remains to be seen.

According to Reuters, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said that Japan will consider government adoption of AI technology such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT chatbot if privacy and cybersecurity concerns are resolved.

When a reporter asked Matsuno about Italy’s temporary ban on ChatGPT, he said Japan is aware of other countries’ actions and would continue evaluating possibilities of introducing AI to reduce government workers’ workload.

The remarks came shortly before Altman met Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida and said that OpenAI is “looking at opening an office.”

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