Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, an influential presence in Silicon Valley for more than a decade, is emerging as the tech titan of the AI era, riding the wave of ChatGPT, the bot his company unleashed on the world.
Testifying before a panel of the US Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Sam Altman said artificial intelligence could be of the “printing press” at a time, making him one of its most important pioneers.
In 2015, Altman joined Tesla chief Elon Musk and others in starting OpenAI, a research company with the goal of building generative AI that benefits humanity.
“The technological advancements we make over the next 100 years will far exceed anything we’ve made since we first mastered fire and invented the wheel,” Altman said in a 2021 blog post.
– Startup Guru –
Born in 1985 to a Jewish family, Altman grew up in suburban St. Louis, where he got his first computer at age eight, according to a lengthy profile in the 2016 New Yorker.
Computers and the access to the online community they allow helped him to be gay in a conservative part of the country, Altman said in an interview with Esquire.
Like so many tech figures before him, Altman dropped out of Stanford University to start a company, Loopt, that allowed smartphone users to selectively share their whereabouts.
Loopt was acquired in 2012 in a $43.4 million deal — and Altman’s place in Silicon Valley was secured.
Altman took a year off during which he “read many dozens of textbooks; I learned about the fields I was interested in,” the San Francisco resident wrote in a post.
He said he had learned about nuclear engineering, synthetic biology, investing and AI.
“The seeds were planted for things that worked in a deep way later on,” he said.
– T-shirt and shorts –
In 2014, Altman became president of Y Combinator, an “accelerator” that provides startup guidance and funding in exchange for stakes in the fledgling companies.
Altman expanded Y Combinator’s strategy to invest beyond software startups into biotechnology, energy and other areas.
“He thinks fast and talks fast; intensely, but in a good way,” says Derek Greenfield, founder of Industrial Microbes, who met Altman while his biotech startup was receiving backing from Y Combinator.
Greenfield recalled that Altman always dressed casually, sometimes in a T-shirt and shorts.
“He was very down to earth,” Greenfield said.
Altman left Y Combinator and, despite the feared risks, put his energy into artificial intelligence.
“He’s a very deep thinker who is incredibly focused on getting things right,” said Jeremy Goldman, senior director of marketing and commerce at Insider Intelligence.
Altman supported a political project “United Slate” in 2018, aimed at improving housing and health care policies.
He also held a fundraiser for 2020 US presidential candidate Andrew Yang, who advocated for universal basic income.
Yang “had some ideas about a universal basic income that (he said) everyone needed, in part because AI would take over people’s jobs,” Goldman said.
Altman has proposed that combining artificial intelligence, robotics and free energy could essentially enable machines to do all the work and provide a “basic income” to adults across society.
“A great future is not complicated: we need technology to create more wealth, and policies to distribute it fairly,” Altman wrote in a blog post.
“Everything that is needed will be cheap and everyone will have enough money to afford it.”
‘Fast cars and survival’
In the New Yorker article, Altman said he was a “prepper,” someone who has preparations and supplies to survive an apocalyptic disaster.
He has talked about owning high-end sports cars and renting planes to fly across California.
Altman said in a blog post that every last day of December he writes a list of things he wants to accomplish in the coming year.
His personal investments include startups working on fusion energy and human life extension.
“I’m super optimistic,” he said in a podcast with TED curator Chris Anderson.
“It’s always easy to doom-scroll and think about how bad things are,” Altman added, “but the good stuff is really good and getting much better.”
(This story has not been edited by DailyExpertNews staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)