Dubai: OpenAI CEO wants to organise AI summit in UAE, Minister says 'consider it done'

Talking at WSG, Sam Altman said he would like to host a one-day conference in the Emirates, which is ' well set up to lead the discussions'


Nasreen Abdulla

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OpenAI CEO Sam Altman (on screen) and Omar AlOlama, UAE's Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence at the World Governments Summit.
OpenAI CEO Sam Altman (on screen) and Omar AlOlama, UAE's Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence at the World Governments Summit.

Published: Tue 13 Feb 2024, 2:25 PM

Last updated: Tue 13 Feb 2024, 11:15 PM

If OpenAI CEO Sam Altman could become UAE's minister of artificial intelligence (AI) for one day, he would first organise a global AI summit here. "At some point, we are going to move towards a global system for what happens with the most powerful [AI] systems," he said.

"The UAE would be so well set up to lead the discussions surrounding that. I would like to host a one-day conference with experts from around the world to brainstorm about that," Altman said.

OpenAI's boss spoke virtually to Omar AlOlama, UAE's Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications, on the second day of the World Governments Summit (WGS) 2024. AlOlama responded, "Consider it done; we will do it."

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Altman further added that it was imperative to have regulatory systems in place to govern AI. "This is a big thing and is going to touch all of us," he said. "We can manage our way through this, but it is going to take a great deal of collaboration and the leaders of the world coming together."

Building regulation

According to Altman, it would be important for countries to provide a sandbox-like environment for AI developers to test limits. "I would like to provide a safe environment for people to experiment with the technology," he said. "I would give people the future, let them experiment with it, and see what goes right and what goes wrong and then write the regulation around it. It is hard to get all the regulatory ideas right in a vacuum."

AlOlama said Dubai had already started such a venture, but it would take time before the country scaled it to become truly global.

Dangers of AI

He expressed concerns about how things could "go horribly wrong" if AI is not regulated and said it kept him up at night. He said it could cause "very subtle societal misalignments where we just have these systems out in society, and through no particular ill intention, things just go horribly wrong."

However, he added that he hoped things would go "tremendously right". "The upside is remarkable," he said. "We can easily imagine a world in the not so distant future where everyone has got a better life than they have today."

He said within a decade, it would raise everyone's standard of living. "If you think of everyone in the world has the resources of a company with hundreds of thousands of really competent people," he said. "They will have an AI lawyer, programmer, marketer and strategist. They can use that to create whatever they want to create."

Altman compared the current available AI to the first iteration of mobile phones. "It took us several decades to get to the iPhones we have today," he said. "It took a massive amount of scaling. What we have now was unimaginable at the time of the first primitive cellphone. That is what we have to push for [with AI]."

The session started with a comical interaction between AlOlama and Altman when AlOlama said, "I am looking to raise $7 trillion if you are interested in joining." Altman responded, "If you figure out how to do it, please let me know."

Altman was in the news recently after it emerged that he was in talks with investors to raise funds to the tune of $7 trillion for an ambitious initiative that would overhaul the world's semiconductor industry and its ability to power AI.


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