OpenAI chief seeks to calm EU tension
OpenAI CEO Sam Altman at the Elysee Palace in Paris on 23 May 2023. (Photo by Yoan VALAT / POOL / AFP)
The boss of OpenAI, the firm behind the massively popular ChatGPT bot, said Friday his company had no plans to leave the European Union — a day after he hinted at a possible exit.
Sam Altman is on a global tour to charm leaders and powerbrokers and calm fears over artificial intelligence (AI), including that it could decimate industries, flood the web with misinformation and copyright infringements, and entrench racism.
But on the London leg of his voyage he irritated EU officials after he told reporters OpenAI might have to “cease operating” in the bloc if any future regulations were too strict.
He tweeted on Friday ahead of an appearance in Paris: “We are excited to continue to operate here and of course have no plans to leave.”
ChatGPT burst into the spotlight late last year, demonstrating an ability to generate essays, poems and conversations from the briefest of prompts.
Microsoft later laid out billions of dollars to support OpenAI and now uses the firm’s technology in several of its products — sparking a race with Google, which has made a slew of similar announcements.
Altman, a 38-year-old emerging star of Silicon Valley, has received rapturous welcomes from leaders everywhere from Lagos to London.
But his comments on the AI Act, a regulation aiming to protect people from technology like invasive surveillance, irked the bloc’s industry commissioner Thierry Breton.
He wrote on Twitter that Altman was “attempting blackmail” and said the EU was trying to help companies prepare for the regulation, which would not be in force until the end of 2025 at the earliest.
ChatGPT has already fallen foul of the EU’s privacy laws, being briefly shut down in Italy over concerns about its handling of data.
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