Why OpenAI CEO is Lobbying for More Regulations

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Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, the largest artificial intelligence company in the world, recently lobbied Congress to implement federal regulations in regards to AI. This is an understandable but uncommon move, as history shows large companies in various industries lobbying for government regulations. Thus it begs the question: why would Altman and OpenAI lobby for more regulations knowing its possible risks?

To start, regulation can act to restrain competition. OpenAI has become the leader of the AI race thanks to an immense early financial and first-mover advantage. While other companies can still compete, regulation can create a larger access-barrier for smaller and fledgling companies, thus creating a protective barrier for OpenAI. Additionally, it can also create the opportunity for OpenAI to get ahead due to more favorable regulations written directly by them and given more attention by the regulators.

Another motivation for lobbying for more regulation is in order to establish trust. OpenAI wants to be seen as a trustworthy company, and having the government provide additional “insurance” that their work is safe can help build trust with the public. This trust-building can also extend to investors, which could lead to more investments and financial support.

Altman also has the potential to personally benefit from the increased regulation. The proposed rules would make him a leading figure in the field – Congress has already asked him to be the head of a new regulating agency – and he can be highly sought after for his knowledge and relationships. He will also have increased opportunities to hire and be hired in governmental positions, and to become a media darling from the regulations.

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OpenAI was founded in 2015 as a nonprofit organization. It received over a billion dollars in donations (including from Elon Musk) and has rapidly expanded in terms of both technology and size. OpenAI’s main purpose is to create artificial general intelligence for human betterment by developing safe and responsible use cases. Their technological advancements have been used in various real-world applications from robotics to natural language processing. While there are no guarantees, it appears that Altman believes that regulation could benefit OpenAI’s goals and his own developments.

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