Microsoft's Mustafa Suleiman Says He Loves Sam Altman, Believes He's Serious About AI Safety

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In an interview at the Aspen Ideas Festival on Tuesday, Microsoft AI CEO Mustafa Suleiman made it very clear that he admires OpenAI CEO Sam Altman.

CNBC's Andrew Ross Sorkin asks what the plan will be when Microsoft's huge AI future doesn't depend so closely on OpenAI, using the metaphor of winning a bicycle race? But Solomon retreated.

“I don't buy the metaphor that there's a finish line. It's another false frame,” he said. “We have to stop framing everything as a great race.”

He then pushed the Microsoft corporate line about his company's arrangement with OpenAI, in which it invested $10 billion through some combination of cash and cloud credit. The deal gives Microsoft a larger stake in OpenAI's lucrative business, and allows it to incorporate its AI models into Microsoft products and sell its tech to Microsoft Cloud customers. Some reports suggest that Microsoft may also be entitled to some OpenAI payments.

“It's true that we have a tough competition with them,” Solomon said of OpenAI. “They're an independent company. We don't own or control them. We don't even have a board member. So they do their own thing entirely. But we have a deep partnership. I'm very happy with Sam. Good friends, have a lot of respect and trust and believe in what they have done and will continue to do so for many years to come,” said Solomon.

This close/distant relationship is important to Solomon. Microsoft's investors and enterprise customers appreciate the close relationship. But regulators became curious and in April, the European Union agreed that its investment was not a genuine takeover. Should this change, there will likely be regulatory involvement as well.

Solomon says he trusts Altman on AI safety.

In a sense, Solomon was the Sam Altman of AI before OpenAI. He has spent most of his career competing with OpenAI, and is known for his ego.

Solomon was the founder of AI pioneer DeepMind and sold it to Google in 2014. He was reportedly placed on administrative leave after allegations of bullying employees, as Bloomberg reported in 2019, then moved on to other roles at Google before leaving the company in 2022 to join Greylock. . Partners as Venture Partners. A few months later, he and a Microsoft board member, Greylock's Reid Hoffman, launched Inflection AI to build their LLM chatbot, among other goals.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella tried unsuccessfully to hire Sam Altman last fall, when OpenAI fired him and then promptly reinstated him. Then, Microsoft hired Solomon and most of Inflection in March, leaving a shell of a company and a big check. In his new role at Microsoft, Solomon is auditing the OpenAI code, Semaphore reported earlier this month. As one of OpenAI's former major rivals, it's now diving deeper into the crown-jewel frenemy competitor.

There is another wrinkle in all of this. OpenAI was founded on the premise of conducting AI safety research, to prevent evil AI from one day destroying mankind. In 2023, while he was still a competitor of OpenAI, Solomon released a book with researcher Michael Bhaskar called “The Coming Wave: Technology, Power and the Biggest Dilemma of the 21st Century”. The book discusses the dangers of AI and how to avoid them.

A group of former OpenAI employees signed a letter earlier this month outlining their concerns that OpenAI and other AI companies are not taking security seriously enough.

When asked about it, Solomon also declared his love and trust for Altman, but also that he wanted to see both regulation and a slower pace.

“Maybe it's because I'm British with European tendencies, but I'm not afraid of regulation in the way that everyone seems to be by default,” he says of all this finger-pointing from former employees. described as “healthy dialogue”. He added, “I think it's great that technologists and entrepreneurs and CEOs of companies like myself and Sam, who I love and admire very much” about the regulation. Talking. “He's not mean, he's sincere. He truly believes in it.”

But he also said, “Friction is going to be our friend here. These technologies are going to be so powerful, they're going to be so close, so ever-present, that it's a moment where it's OK to take stock.” If all this dialogue slows down AI development by six to 18 months or more, “it's time well spent.”

It's all very comfortable between these players.

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman
Image credit: Tech Crunch

Sulaiman wants collaboration with China, AI in classrooms.

Sulaiman also made some interesting comments on other issues. On the AI ​​Race with China:

“With all due respect to my good friends in DC and the military-industrial complex, if this is the default frame that this might just be a new Cold War, then that's exactly what will happen because it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. They're going to be afraid that we're going to be adversarial so they're going to have to be adversarial and it's only going to escalate,” he said. “We have to find ways to cooperate, to respect them, while recognizing that we have a different set of values.”

Then, he also said that China is “building their own technology ecosystem, and they're spreading it all over the world. We should really pay attention.”

When asked his opinion on children using AI for schoolwork, Suleiman, who said he doesn't have children, shrugged it off. “I think we have to be a little bit careful about fearing the downside of every tool, you know, the way calculators came out, there was this gut reaction of, oh, no, everybody's going to be able to solve. There would be an immediate equation and it would make us stupid because we were not able to do mental math.

He also envisions a time, very soon, where AI is like a teacher's assistant, perhaps live-chatting in the classroom, as AI's verbal skills improve. “What would it be like for a great teacher or educator to have an intimate conversation with an AI live and in front of their audience?”

The bottom line is, if we want the people who are building and exploiting AI to govern and protect humanity from its worst effects, we are setting unrealistic expectations.

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