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Sam Altman wants you to know that he loves Europe.
The CEO of OpenAI, the creator of the ChatGPT AI tool, has spent the past week touring the continent, stopping in Spain, France, Poland, Germany and the UK. He quickly talked about AI regulation with policy makers – met national leaders Pedro Sánchez, Emmanuel Macron, Mateusz Morawiecki, Olaf Scholz and Rishi Sunak – and scouted locations for a European OpenAI office.
“We really need an office in Europe,” Altman told POLITICO on Friday at an event in Paris. « We just want one. » Under the upcoming European Union Artificial Intelligence Law, companies with EU-based users would need a presence on the bloc, with national « supervisory authorities » in charge of enforcing the regulation. Where it chooses the location of its headquarters will therefore determine which member country it will oversee when it comes to enforcing the AI law.
Since its launch in November 2022, OpenAI’s ChatGPT, a bot that can create text like songs, scripts, articles and software based on written suggestions, has caused both optimism and anxiety about what the rise of AI will mean for the future of humanity. While some have marveled at the tool’s ability to create computer code and simplify paperwork, others fear it could be used to generate quantities of automated disinformation, manipulative content and biased material, or even cause people to lose their jobs. million of people.
Still, politicians seem eager to host the world’s hottest AI lab. Opening the event, French Digital Minister Jean-Noël Barrot read a ChatGPT-generated description of Altman (« innovative, influential, visionary ») before introducing France as a « great country for AI », rattling off a list that included talent, abundant nuclear energy (to power the computers that power artificial intelligence), and cultural heritage among his assets.
In the UK, where Altman also briefed national security personnel, a person familiar with his conversation with Sunak, who has been granted anonymity to discuss high-level meetings, described the British prime minister as « deferential « .
Altman is still considering where to house the new office. “If you had to choose based on the highest number of AI research talent alone, you would choose France,” he told POLITICO. « But I was super impressed with the talent and energy throughout. » OpenAI already has staff working in London, according to LinkedIn, and set up a branch in the UK in September 2022, according to LinkedIn country’s business register.
In Paris, Altman made an effort to cancel the reports, from Reuters, that OpenAI could leave the EU if the AI Act proves too onerous. “We plan to comply. We want to offer services in Europe,” Altman told the Parisian audience. “We just want to make sure we’re technically capable of doing that. And the conversations have been super productive this week,” he added.
First launched by the European Commission in 2021, the AI Act would ban some uses of AI (such as social scoring and some cases of facial recognition) and impose stricter rules related to safety and oversight when it comes to AI applications sensitive people considered « high-risk. » Furthermore, according to a version of the AI Act adopted earlier this month by European Parliament lawmakers, « generative » models like ChatGPT – which can create new content, such as text or photos – should disclose a digest of copyrighted materials used as training data.
The rule – which has yet to be agreed by representatives of the Commission and EU member countries – addresses concerns from artists and publishers that AI companies could be using their intellectual property without their consent or knowledge.
« Sounds like a great thing to ask, » Altman told POLITICO. “But – due to the way these datasets are collected and the fact that people have copied the data in different ways on different websites – saying that I have to legally secure every piece of copyrighted content is not as easy as it seems. »
Altman thinks an easier way for creators to know if their work is being used would be based on their names appearing in prompts users give to an AI. « Any time you ask, ‘I want a Beatles-style song,’ that would be clear, » Altman said.
All in all, however, Altman struck an optimistic tone about the AI Act and said he would be happy to meet with EU policy makers, despite missing a scheduled stop in Brussels during his tour. He told POLITICO that OpenAI will join the EU’s first « sandbox, » based in Spain, where AI companies can test their regulatory compliance.
« It’s getting to a good point, » he said. « Regulatory clarity will be a good thing. »
This article has been updated.