Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI, has become an influential figure in Silicon Valley over the past decade. His company recently created ChatGPT, a bot that has taken the world by storm. Altman testified on Tuesday to a panel of the US Senate Judiciary Committee and stated that artificial intelligence (AI) could be experiencing a moment similar to that of the printing press, making him one of its main pioneers. He joined Elon Musk and others in 2015 to start OpenAI, a research company aimed at building generative AI that benefits humanity. In a 2021 blog post, Altman predicted that the technological progress made in the next 100 years would be greater than all the progress made since the invention of fire and the wheel.
Altman’s Background and Contributions to AI
Born in 1985 to a Jewish family in a St. Louis suburb, Altman received his first computer at the age of eight. Computers and access to online communities helped him navigate being gay in a conservative part of the country, as he revealed in an interview with Esquire. Altman dropped out of Stanford University to start Loopt, a company that allowed smartphone users to selectively share their whereabouts. Loopt was acquired in 2012 for $43.4 million, and Altman’s place in Silicon Valley was cemented. In 2014, Altman became the president of Y Combinator, an accelerator that offers startups guidance and funding in exchange for a stake in the young companies. He expanded Y Combinator’s strategy for investing beyond software startups to biotech, energy, and other fields.
At OpenAI, Altman has proposed combining AI, robotics, and cost-free energy to enable machines to perform all work and provide a basic income to adults across society. He has backed several political projects aimed at improving healthcare and housing policies, and he held a fundraising event for 2020 US presidential candidate Andrew Yang, who advocated for universal basic income. Altman has personal investments in startups working on fusion energy and human life extension. Despite the potential risks, he is committed to AI and believes that technology can create more wealth and policy can distribute it fairly.
Altman is a deep thinker who is intensely focused on getting things right. He is optimistic about the future and writes a list of things he wants to accomplish each year. He is a prepper who owns high-performance sports cars and rents planes to fly around California. Altman’s personal investments show his dedication to AI and his belief that it can benefit humanity.