"I'm not afraid of that at all. In fact, I think that's good."

Rinse Cycle

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, whose company makes that one chatbot your boss has probably considered replacing you with, warns that the advancement of AI means that a lot of people are going to lose their jobs. Spoiler: he doesn't sound like he's going to do anything about it.

Viewing the shift through an historical lens, Altman thinks job loss is an inevitable casualty of any "technological revolution." Every 100 to 150 years, Altman said at The Wall Street Journal Tech Live conference on Monday, half of people's jobs end up getting phased out.

"I'm not afraid of that at all," he said, as quoted by the paper. "In fact, I think that's good. I think that's the way of progress, and we'll find new and better jobs."

Long Jobs

Telling people they're going to be out of a job in the name of progress is not an easy sell. Or, as Altman puts it, "that's not, uh, that's not cool."

Which is an interesting thing for him to admit, since framing job loss as some sort of greater good is basically his whole narrative. In the past, he's never sounded that upset about AI replacing the "median human," either.

Still, he did reiterate that "we are really going to have to do something about this transition" — though what that "something" will actually be remains unclear.

"It is not enough just to give people a universal basic income," Altman said. "People need to have agency, the ability to influence. We need to jointly be architects of the future."

It may well be that being joint architects pretty much means "getting billions of people to use ChatGPT."

Back and Forth

If Altman really thinks we should do "something" about the transition to AI, he hasn't been all that keen on attempts so far to regulate it.

Although in May he did call on Congress to be tougher on the industry, later that month he threatened to pull OpenAI out of the European Union when it actually did so.

These kinds of contradictions are fairly characteristic of Altman, who has rarely passed up the chance to both gloom and gloat about the tech's future.

At times he's "afraid" of what he's making and loses sleep over it. But he's also pretty confident that eventually, poor, "median" folks should be able to see an "AI medical advisor" instead of an actual doctor.

But he's consistently right about at least one thing: people are already losing their jobs to AI.

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