The Joe Rogan Experience: Joe Rogan interviews Sam Altman, the OpenAI CEO.
I’m wondering what the potential for the future is and whether or not that’s a good thing. I think it’s gonna be a great thing. But I think it’s not gonna be all a great thing.
And that that is where I think that’s where all of the complexity comes in for people. It’s not this like, clean story of we’re gonna do this and it’s all gonna be great. We’re going to do this.
It’s going to be net great, but it’s going to be like a technological revolution. It’s going to be a societal revolution. And those always come with change.
And even if it’s like net wonderful, there’s things we’re going to lose along the way. Some kinds of jobs, some kind parts of our way of life, some parts of the way we live are going to change or go away. And no matter how tremendous the upside is there, and I believe it will be tremendously good, there’s a lot of stuff we got to navigate through to make sure.
That’s a complicated thing for anyone to wrap their heads around, and there’s deep and super understandable emotions around that. That’s a very honest answer. It’s not all going to be good, but it seems inevitable at this point.
Yeah, I mean, it’s definitely inevitable. My view of the world, when you’re like a kid in school, you learn about this technological revolution and then that one, and then that one. And my view of the world now sort of looking backwards and forwards, is that this is like one long technological revolution.
And we had sure, like, first we had to figure out agriculture so that we had the resources and time to figure out how to build machines. Then we got this industrial revolution, and that made us learn about a lot of stuff, a lot of other scientific discovery too. Let us do the computer revolution.
And that’s now letting us, as we scale up to these massive systems, do the AI revolution. But it really is just one long story of humans discovering science and technology and coevolving with it. And I think it’s the most exciting story of all time.
I think it’s how we get to this world of abundance. And although we do have these things to navigate, and there will be these downsides, if you think about what it means for the world and for people’s quality of lives, if we can get to a world where the cost of intelligence and the abundance that comes with that, the cost dramatically falls, the abundance goes way up. I think we’ll do the same thing with energy.
And I think those are the two sort of key inputs to everything else we want. So if we can have abundant and cheap energy and intelligence, that will transform people’s lives largely for the better. And I think it’s going to in the same way that if we could go back now 500 years and look at someone’s life, we’d say, well, there’s some great things, but they didn’t have this, they didn’t have that.
Can you believe they didn’t have modern medicine? That’s what people are going to look back at us like. But in 50 years, when you think about the people that currently rely on jobs that AI will replace, when you think about whether it’s truck drivers or automation workers, people that work in factory assembly lines, what strategies can be put to mitigate the negative downsides of those jobs being eliminated by AI? I’ll talk about some general thoughts, but I find making very specific predictions difficult because the way the technology goes has been so different than even my own intuitions, or certainly than my own intuitions. Maybe we should stop there and back up a little.
What were your initial thoughts? If you had asked me ten years ago, I would have said first, AI is going to come for blue collar labor. Basically it’s going to drive trucks and do factory work and it’ll handle heavy machinery. Then maybe after that it’ll do some kinds of cognitive labor, kind of.
But it won’t be off doing what I think of personally as the really hard stuff. It won’t be off proving new mathematical theorems, won’t be off discovering new science, won’t be off writing code. And then eventually maybe, but maybe last of all, maybe never, because human creativity is this magic special thing.
Last of all, it’ll come for the creative jobs. That’s what I would have said. Now A, it looks to me like, and for a while, AI is much better at doing tasks than doing jobs.
It can do these little pieces super well, but sometimes it goes off the rails. It can’t keep like very long coherence so people are instead just able to do their existing jobs way more productively. But you really still need the human there today.
And then b, it’s going exactly the other direction. Could do the creative work first, stuff like coding. Second, they can do things like other kinds of cognitive labor.
Third. And we’re the furthest away from like humanoid robots. So back to the initial question.
If we do have something that completely eliminates factory workers, completely eliminates truck drivers, delivery drivers, things along those lines, that creates this massive vacuum in our society. So I think there’s things that we’re going to do that are good to do but not sufficient. So I think at some point we will do something like a UBI or some other kind of very long term unemployment insurance, something.
But we’ll have some way of giving people like redistributing money in society as a cushion for people, as people figure out the new jobs. And maybe I should touch on that. I’m not a believer at all that there won’t be lots of new jobs.
I think human creativity, desire for status, wanting different ways to compete invent new things, feel part of a community, feel valued that’s not going to go anywhere. People have worried about that forever. What happens is we get better tools and we just invent new things and more amazing things to do and there’s a big universe out there.
I mean that literally in that there’s like spaces really big. But also there’s just so much stuff we can all do if we do get to this world of abundant intelligence where you can sort of just think of a new idea and it gets created. But again, to the point we started with that doesn’t provide great solace to people who are losing their jobs today.
So saying there’s going to be this great indefinite stuff in the future, people are like, what are we doing today? So I think we will as a society do things like UBI and other ways of redistribution. But I don’t think that gets at the core of what people want. I think what people want is like agency, self determination, the ability to play a role in architecting the future along with the rest of society, the ability to express themselves and create something meaningful to them.
And also I think a lot of people work jobs they hate. And I think we as a society are always a little bit confused about whether we want to work more or work less. But somehow that we all get to do something meaningful and we all get to play our role in driving the future forward.
That’s really important. And what I hope is as those truck driving, long haul truck driving jobs go away, which people have been wrong about predicting how fast that’s going to happen, but it’s going to happen. We figure out not just a way to solve the economic problem by giving people the equivalent of money every month, but that there’s a way that and we’ve had a lot of ideas about this, there’s a way that we share ownership and decision making over the future.
A thing I say a lot about AGI is that everyone realizes we’re going to have to share the benefits of that but we also have to share the decision making over it and access to the system itself. I’d be more excited about a world where we say rather than give everybody on earth like one 8,000,000,000th of the AGI money, which we should do that too. We say you get like a one 8,000,000,000th slice of the system.
You can sell it to somebody else, you can sell it to a company, you can pool it with other people, you can use it for whatever creative pursuit you want. You can use it to figure out how to start some new business. And with that you get sort of like a voting right over how this is all going to be used.
And so the better the AGI gets, the more your little one 8,000,000,000th ownership is worth to you. We were joking around the other day on the podcast where I was saying that what we need is an AI government. We should have what is that? AI.
President and have AI just make all the decisions. Yeah. Have something that’s completely unbiased, absolutely rational, has the accumulated knowledge of the entire human history at its disposal, including all knowledge of psychology and psychological study, including UBI, because that comes with a host of pitfalls and issues that people have with it.
So I’ll say something there. I think we’re still very far away from a system that is capable enough and reliable enough that any of us would want that. But I’ll tell you something I love about that.
Someday, let’s say that thing gets built. The fact that it can go around and talk to every person on Earth, understand their exact preferences at a very deep level, how they think about this issue and that one, and how they balance the trade offs and what they want, and then understand all of that and collectively optimize for the collective preferences of humanity or of citizens of the US. That’s awesome.
As long as it’s not co opted, right? Our government currently is co opted, that’s for sure. We know for sure that our government is heavily influenced by special interests. If we could have an artificial intelligence government that has no influence, nothing has influence on it.
What a fascinating idea. It’s possible. And I think it might be the only way where you’re going to get completely objective the absolute most intelligent decision for virtually every problem, every dilemma that we face currently in society.
Would you truly be comfortable handing over, like, final decision making and say, all right, AI, you got it? No, but I’m not comfortable doing that with anybody. Right. I was uncomfortable with the Patriot Act.
I’m uncomfortable with totally many decisions that are being made. It’s just there’s so much obvious evidence that decisions that are being made are not being made in the best interests of the overall well of the people. It’s being made in the decisions of whatever gigantic corporations that have donated to and whatever the military industrial complex and pharmaceutical industrial complex, and then just the money.
That’s really what we know today. That money has a massive influence on our society and the choices that get made and the overall good or bad for the population. Yeah.
I have no disagreement at all that the current system is super broken, not working for people, super corrupt, and for sure, like, unbelievably run by money. And I think there is a way to do a better job than that with AI in some way. And this might just be like a factor of sitting with the systems all day and watching all of the ways they fail.
We got a long way to go. A long way to go, I’m sure. But when you think of AGI, when you think of the possible future, like where it goes to, do you ever extrapolate do you ever sit and pause and say, well, if this becomes sentient and it has the ability to make better versions of itself, how long before we’re literally dealing with a God? So the way that I think about this is it used to be that AGI was this very binary moment.
It was before and after. And I think I’m totally wrong about that. And the right way to think about it is this continuum of intelligence, this smooth exponential curve back all the way to that sort of smooth curve of technological revolution.
The amount of compute power we can put into the system, the scientific ideas about how to make it more efficient and smarter, to give it the ability to do reasoning, to think about how to improve itself, that will all come. But my model for a long time, I think if you look at the world of AGI thinkers, there’s sort of two, particularly around the safety issues you’re talking about. There’s two axes that matter.
There’s the short, what called short timelines or long timelines to the first milestone of AGI, whatever that’s going to be. Is that going to happen in a few years, a few decades, maybe even longer. Although at this point, I think most people are a few years or a few decades.
And then there’s takeoff speed once we get there. From there to that point you’re talking about where it’s capable of the rapid self improvement. Is that a slow or a fast process? The world that I think we’re heading, that we’re in, and also the world that I think is the most controllable and the safest is the short timelines and slow takeoff quadrant.
And I think we’re going to have there were a lot of very smart people for a while who were like, the thing you were just talking about happens in a day or three days. And that doesn’t seem likely to me, given the shape of the technology as we understand it now. Now, even if that happens in a decade or three decades, it’s still like the blink of an eye from a historical perspective.
And there are going to be some real challenges to getting that right and the decisions we make, the sort of safety systems and the checks that the world puts in place, how we think about global regulation or rules of the road from a safety perspective for those projects, it’s super important because you can imagine many things going horribly wrong. But I feel cheerful about the progress the world is making towards taking this seriously. And it reminds me of what I’ve read about the conversations that the world had right around the development of nuclear weapons.