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Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, attends the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation CEO Summit in San Francisco, California, back in November 2023.

REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo

Does AI’s power problem have a nuclear solution?

Sam Altman, the co-founder and CEO of OpenAI, has broad ambitions to solve all of the problems of AI, from algorithms to high-tech chips. But there’s one more problem on his plate: energy. Altman is backing a series of companies that hope to find a way to power the revolutionary tech, literally.

One of the startups Altman invested in is called Oklo, which is building a nuclear power plant in Idaho that could eventually power energy-guzzling data centers that AI depends on, but there is no clear public timeline for the project. Google and Microsoft have also partnered with nuclear power firms for their energy needs.

Nuclear energy comes with risks, of course, and Oklo has had trouble with regulators, which rejected applications in the past based on the lack of safety and security information provided. But going nuclear — if companies like Oklo can get it right — is also a cleaner alternative to more carbon-emitting energy sources.

This image of NGC 5468, a galaxy located about 130 million light-years from Earth, combines data from the Hubble and James Webb space telescopes.

NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI/Adam G. Riess via Reuters

Hard Numbers: Understanding the universe, Opening up OpenAI,  Bioweapon warning, Independent review, AI media billions

100 million: AI is helping researchers better map outer space. One recent simulation led by a University College London researcher was able to show 100 million galaxies just across a quarter of the Earth’s southern hemisphere sky. This is part of a wider effort to understand dark energy, the mysterious force causing the expansion of the universe.

30,000: The law firm WilmerHale, which completed its investigation of Sam Altman’s brief December ouster from OpenAI, examined 30,000 documents as part of its review. The contents of the report haven’t been made public, but new board chairman Bret Taylor said that the review found the prior board acted in good faith but didn’t anticipate the reaction to removing Altman, who is now rejoining the board. The SEC, meanwhile, is still investigating whether OpenAI deceived investors, but it’s unclear whether WilmerHale will give their findings to the agency.

90: More than 90 scientists have pledged not to use AI to develop bioweapons as part of an agreement forged somewhat in response to congressional remarks given by Anthropic CEO Dario Amodei last year. Amodei said while the current generation of AI technology couldn’t handle such a task, it’s only two or three years away.

100: More than 100 AI researchers have signed an open letter asking the leading companies to allow independent investigators access to their models to ensure that risk assessment is thorough. “Generative AI companies should avoid repeating the mistakes of social media platforms, many of which have effectively banned types of research aimed at holding them accountable,” the letter said.

8 billion: The media company Thomson Reuters says it has an $8 billion “war chest” to spend on AI-related acquisitions. In addition to publishing the Reuters newswire, the company sells access to services like Westlaw, a popular legal research platform. It’s also committed to spending at least $100 million developing in-house AI technology to integrate into its news and data offerings.

Courtesy of Midjourney

Sam Altman’s wish on a $7 trillion star

Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, needs more chips. He needs a lot more chips. The only thing stopping his $100 billion startup — if you can still call it a startup — may be the current supply of powerful chips.

The semiconductor fabrication process is notoriously slow and expensive, and the global supply chain runs through a few big, highly specialized firms. There are only a small number of companies that actually design chips made for generative AI — AMD, Intel, and Nvidia. And they’re pricy: Nvidia, which is set to take 85% of the market next year by one estimate, sells its H100 chips for about $40,000 a pop.

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Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, attends the 54th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 18, 2024.

REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Sam Altman’s chip ambitions

OpenAI chief Sam Altman is raising billions of dollars for a global network of semiconductor fabrication plants. He wants his firm to make high-powered computer chips itself.
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View through a camera viewfinder while Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, speaks at a World Economic Forum event in Davos.

DPA / Picture Alliance via Reuters

Different views: Altman's​ optimism vs. IMF's caution

Much of the buzz in Davos this year has been around artificial intelligence and the attendance of precocious talents like Open AI’s Sam Altman, who has helped pioneer the biggest technological breakthrough since the personal computer. The World Economic Forum’s Chief Economists Outlook suggested near unanimity in the belief that productivity gains from AI will become economically significant in the next five years in high-income economies. And Altman himself has said he is motivated to “create tech-driven prosperity.”

But there are less rosy predictions around AI. The International Monetary Fund has warned that 40% of jobs worldwide could be adversely impacted and overall inequality could worsen. In the current feverish climate, such warnings have been dismissed.

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A slogan related to Artificial Intelligence is displayed on a screen in the Intel pavilion during the 54th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

AI takes center stage at Davos

Artificial intelligence is a hot topic in Davos, Switzerland, this week, as government officials and industry leaders gather for the 54th edition of the World Economic Forum summit. There are more than 30 scheduled events about AI concerning jobs, healthcare, ethics, chips, and access.

Among the most "sought-after" attendees are AI executives, including OpenAI's Sam Altman, Inflection AI's Mustafa Suleyman, Google DeepMind's Lila Ibrahim, Cohere's Aidan Gomez, and Mistral AI's Florian Bressand. Altman, who will speak about the benefits and risks of AI on Thursday, gave a recent podcast interview with Microsoft founder Bill Gates, sharing his thoughts on AI regulation.

Altman said that he's interested in the idea of a "global regulatory body that looks at those super-powerful systems" – ones far more powerful than current models like GPT-4 – and suggested that the IAEA, the nuclear regulatory model, might be a good model. "This needs a global agency of some sort because of the potential for global impact.”

Courtesy of Midjourney

The world of AI in 2024

1. Powerful new models: Today’s AI systems still struggle with natural language, computer vision, and so-called hallucinations (read: they tend to make stuff up). But more potent AI models are coming soon. OpenAI is expected to release GPT-5, and Meta may soon unveil LLaMA 3, the latest version of its open-source model. We will also likely see improvements to the new Google model Gemini, which was recently added to its Bard chatbot.

2. Labor tensions: The acceleration of AI will continue to reshape industries, automating jobs and displacing workers. That will lead to widespread tension in various sectors of the economy. Union leaders could make AI the centerpiece of their strikes, and you might hear a lot of talk about “reskilling” workers on the lips of lawmakers heading into the 2024 election. This time it’s sure to work …
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Courtesy of Midjourney

2023: The Year of AI

Art: Courtesy of Midjourney

The Trends

1. Chatbot mania: OpenAI brought AI to the masses with ChatGPT. Though it debuted in late 2022, it truly hit its stride this year, especially when it started charging $20 a month in February for access to its latest and greatest version, which was then upgraded with GPT-4 in March. Google also released Bard, Microsoft launched Bing Chat, and the startup Anthropic introduced us to Claude. Each chatbot has its strength: While ChatGPT is strong on creative writing and inductive reasoning, Bing is best used as a replacement for internet search engines, and Bard’s latest upgrade – to its new language model Gemini – strives for commonsense reasoning and logic. Anthropic's Claude rivals ChatGPT for complex tasks like organizing huge chunks of text. For now, ChatGPT is top dog, but the younger pups are nipping at its heels.

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