“If we rush the development of artificial intelligence, we destroy humanity” – What is “effective altruism”, the movement that played a major role in the OpenAI scandal

​There are more and more people who believe that humanity could be destroyed by the artificial intelligence technologies that we humans are also creating. In many companies developing generative AI software, there is a conflict between those who say we should move forward cautiously and those who say we need to release the best as soon as possible. What is “effective altruism”? Why do so many people believe in this idea?

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The movement called “effective altruism” (Altruisme efficacious, in French) originates in philosophy, but after 2014 it spread to the field of Artificial Intelligence.

In short, supporters of this movement believe that reason and data can be used to do the greatest possible good. In recent years they have warned that artificial intelligence systems are becoming too powerful, can spiral out of control and put humanity’s existence at risk. The number of believers in this idea has exploded after the success of ChatGPT.

Proponents of the “effective altruism” movement say they can build much safer AI systems because they are willing to invest in what they call “alignment,” meaning that employees can 100% control the technology they develop and they are 100% sure that these technologies align with a set of human values.

The people who have expressed the fear that artificial intelligence will “erase” us from the face of the Earth are called “doomers” and they were very few, but in recent years they have entered the “mainstream”, they are increasingly silent, they have started petitions and asked the authorities to act and establish clear rules in the development of artificial intelligence.

In the “soap opera” of OpenAI, the “effective altruism” movement played an important role: two of the board members who fired Sam Altman had ties to “altruistic” groups, and Ilya Sutskever, who served as “chief scientist ” by OpenAI, supports ideas from the movement and initially appeared to be Altman’s No. 1 opponent.

Furthermore, OpenAI, the company that launched ChatGPT in 2022, was created in 2015 based on ideas of effective altruism, and no one believed that OpenAI would end up being valued at $80 billion. No one would have suspected then that OpenAI would create and release one of the most popular software.

One of the movement’s biggest supporters is disgraced cryptocurrency “tycoon” Sam Bankman-Fried (he was convicted of fraud).

What is “effective altruism”

The effective altruism movement addresses the dangers associated with the development of artificial intelligence (AI). The “effective altruism” perspective proposes a rational approach to managing potential risks.

The movement believes that the development of artificial intelligence with the ability to surpass human intelligence could pose existential risks. Therefore, the movement encourages the idea that AI research and development should be accompanied by careful attention to safety and ethics.

The development of technologies to ensure control and transparency of AI, preventing possible negative consequences, is encouraged.

The movement also promotes international collaboration to address risks associated with artificial intelligence. Things like setting ethical standards, appropriate regulations, and sharing information between countries and organizations are proposed.



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