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Reid Hoffman Is Praising the Virtues of AI

Few are as involved in so many different artificial intelligence efforts as Mr. Hoffman, a Silicon Valley investor who co-founded LinkedIn.

It’s all part of the land grab for public opinion around A.I. in preparation for when the initial burst of fear and hype over the technology settles into a coherent debate. Sides will be chosen, regulation will be proposed, and tech tools will become politicized. For now, industry leaders like Mr. Hoffman are trying to nudge the terms of the discussion in their favor, even as public concerns only seem to grow.

“I’m beating the positive drum very loudly, and I’m doing so deliberately,” he said.

“That’s part of the responsibility that we should be thinking about here,” he said.

The tech leaders differ on A.I.’s risks and opportunities and have been loudly promoting their takes in the marketplace of ideas.

“The solutions live in the future, not by enshrining the past,” he said.

“It’s not just the risks, it’s how fast they are moving,” Mr. Netzer said of tech companies’ handling of A.I. “I don’t think we can hope or trust that the industry will regulate itself.”

Mr. Hoffman’s pro-A.I. campaign, he said, is meant to foster trust where it’s broken. “It’s not to say that there won’t be some harms in some areas,” he said. “The question is could we learn and iterate to a much better state?”

Mustafa Suleyman, DeepMind’s co-founder, said Mr. Hoffman differed from other venture capitalists in that his primary motivation was doing good in the world.

“How can we be in service of humanity? He asked that question all the time,” Mr. Suleyman said.

When Mr. Suleyman began working on his latest start-up, Inflection AI, he found Mr. Hoffman’s strategic advice to be so useful that he asked him to help found the company. Greylock invested in the start-up last year.

Mr. Hoffman was also there in OpenAI’s early days. At an Italian restaurant in San Jose, Calif., in 2015, he met with Mr. Musk and Mr. Altman to discuss the beginnings of the company, which has a mission of ensuring that the most powerful A.I. “benefits all of humanity.”

Mr. Altman said he was initially anxious that Microsoft, a behemoth with a duty to prioritize its shareholders, might not take seriously OpenAI’s mission and unusual structure of capping its profits. In any large, complicated deal, Mr. Altman said, “everyone’s anxious about, ‘How is this really going to work?’”

Mr. Hoffman helped smooth things out. He talked Mr. Altman through various concerns while wearing metaphorical “hats” as an OpenAI board member, a Microsoft board member, and as himself.

Mr. Altman said Mr. Hoffman helped OpenAI “model Microsoft and think about what they’d care about, what they’d be good at, what they’d be bad at, and similar to them for us.”

“It was basically like, ‘If it’s not this, it better be something that’s absolutely critical for society,’” he said.

Mr. Hoffman said his approach was shaped, in part, by his access to “extremely high-quality information flows,” Some is through his business relationships with Microsoft, OpenAI and others. Some is through various philanthropies, like Stanford’s A.I. center.

Looking ahead, he said, there will be more investments, more podcasts, more conversations with government officials and more work on Inflection AI. The way to navigate A.I.’s risks, he stressed, is by steering the world toward the positives.

“I’m a tech optimist, not a tech utopian,” he said.

Category: Technology

Source: NYTimes Technology

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