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OpenAI CEO visits Israel to discuss AI’s opportunities and risks

Sam Altman meets with Herzog, stops at the Microsoft R&D campus in Herzliya.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog with OpenAI CEO Sam Altman in Jerusalem, June 5, 2023. Photo by Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog with OpenAI CEO Sam Altman in Jerusalem, June 5, 2023. Photo by Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog met on Monday morning with OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, whose ChatGPT has quickly become an international sensation.

Launched in November, ChatGPT is an artificially intelligent chatbot that can have human-like conversations, answer questions and assist people in writing assignments. The software has been made available to the public through an app, and millions of users have used it primarily for writing and research.

Herzog made waves in February when, while addressing a Tel Aviv cybertech conference, said that part of his speech was written by ChatGPT.

Herzog told Altman how he used ChatGPT to prepare for their meeting.

“I wrote my talking points myself as you can see, but before our meeting this morning I asked ChatGPT, ‘What should I talk about with Sam Altman?’ and the software recommended me to talk about morality, ethics and the development of the partnership with Israel,” the president said.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog and OpenAI CEO Sam Altman during a discussion at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, June 5, 2023. Photo by Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO.

“So I think it is definitely smart and sophisticated, and promotes the potential in the world. To sum up my words, since you were born in the Jewish community of St. Louis, which is a community that I value very much, you learned about tikkun olam [repairing the world]. So our goal is not only to make a profit but also to serve humanity and the future, so let’s do tikkun olam together,” Herzog added.

Referring to a letter signed by Altman and other tech leaders in May on the dangers of artificial intelligence, Herzog stressed, “Along with the great opportunities in technology there are many threats to humanity, to the independence of people. All human beings were created by God and it is necessary to make sure that this development was created for the benefit of humanity. You can see the advantages and disadvantages and you are the first to point it out openly and boldly.”

Altman told the president, “It is of course important to balance the advantages and disadvantages as you mentioned. I’m happy to do this trip around the world and meet with world leaders and discuss this. The thought, focus and urgency in understanding that one needs to know how to navigate the great risks of technology in order to enjoy its benefits is everyone’s goal. I think there is a fruitful discussion about ways to do this.”

He added, “The energy in creating the technology and the benefits it produces is amazing. I am sure that Israel will play an important role in this. The technology community here is amazing and I have been following for many years the construction of technology here for the betterment of humanity.”

Altman’s AI world tour

Altman, who is leading a delegation of OpenAI leaders, also visited Education Minister Yoav Kisch, the Microsoft Israel campus in Herzliya and hi-tech entrepreneurs. He is due to visit Tel Aviv University.

On Sunday, OpenAI denied media reports that Altman had refused to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying it never received a request from the Prime Minister’s Office.

The 38-year-old Altman is on a world tour meeting with political leaders, entrepreneurs, academics and businessmen. This week alone, he will continue on to Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, India and South Korea before moving on to elsewhere in the Far East and Australia.

A number of public school systems and universities in the U.S., Australia and Europe have banned ChatGPT because students plagiarized its fast and articulate responses to complex questions on assignments and tests.

OpenAI, a San Francisco-based artificial intelligence research laboratory, followed up on ChatGPT in January with the release of DALL-E, an AI system that creates realistic images and art from a description in natural language.

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