OpenAI CEO Sam Altman crams Israel schedule

President Isaac Herzog and OpenAI CEO Sam Altman  credit: Amos Ben Gershom, Government Press Office
President Isaac Herzog and OpenAI CEO Sam Altman credit: Amos Ben Gershom, Government Press Office

Altman is taking in meetings with President Herzog and Microsoft Israel, and an open session at Tel Aviv University.

In the course of a single day, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman is crowding a schedule that might take up a whole week for other executives like him. The person behind the ChatGPT artificial intelligence chatbot is spending less than twenty-four hours in Israel, before proceeding to Jordan.

Altman opened his visit today with a meeting closed to the media with President Isaac Herzog in Tel Aviv. The two men discussed Jewish topics, and the importance of Israel to artificial intelligence technology globally.

"Before our meeting this morning, I wrote some notes, and could not resist asking ChatGPT what I should talk about with Sam Altman. It recommended exactly these issues of ethics and morality, and partnership with Israel. Your software is wise indeed. let’s do tikkun olam together," Herzog told Altman, using the Hebrew expression meaning "repair of the world".

"I want to congratulate you on the open letter you sent with leaders in the industry," Herzog added. "Clearly side by side with the great opportunities of this incredible technology, there are also many risks to humanity and to the independence of human beings in the future. We must make sure that this development is used for the wellbeing of humanity. You can see the advantages and disadvantages, and you are the first to mention it openly and boldly.

"By way of example, I am on my way now to a large conference of cardiologists - medicine will be dramatically improved by AI, however, issues of ethics, and morality, questions of fake news, show the risks and I truly agree with you that this is like developing nuclear weapons, and therefore there has to be an international convention and organization that will deal with it."

In thanking the president, Altman said, "It is so very special for me to visit Israel. The rate at which the tech and startup community in Israel is embracing AI is incredible to watch.

"Of course, we do need to balance that with all the risks you just talked about, but I have been very heartened as I have been doing this trip around the world, getting to meet world leaders, in seeing the thoughtfulness, the focus, and the urgency on figuring out how we mitigate these very huge risks that are coming so that we can enjoy benefits of this technology. Everyone wants to figure that out. I think the intent is really there. The energy on making use of the technology and its positive benefits is fantastic to see, and I am sure Israel will play a huge role - it’s tech community is truly amazing."

Also present at the meeting were OpenAI co-founder and Chief Scientist, Ilya Sutskever, COO, Brad Lighthcap, and VP of Public Policy, Anna Makanju. The president was accompanied in the meeting by his Chief of Staff Diklah Cohen Sheinfeld, Bureau Head Adaya Leibovich, and the president's Advisor on Climate, Tal Gelbert.

Although he held meeting with heads of government in Europe, Altman decided not to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, despite attempts to arrange such a meeting by people outside the prime minister’s bureau. The Prime Minister’s Office explained that Netanyahu’s crowded schedule following the incident at the weekend on the Egyptian border in which three Israeli soldiers were killed did not allow a meeting to take place.

Altman continued to the Microsoft Israel Research and Development Center (ILDC), where he met Michal Braverman-Blumenstyk, general manager of Microsoft Israel R&D, Tomer Simon, the center’s chief scientist, and other ILDC employees.

Microsoft is OpenAI’s partner and financer. The Israel Research and Development Center is believed to be working on ways of making ChayGPT’s data processing cheaper, which is one of the main challenges facing the US company.

"Meeting with Sam Altman was an extraordinary opportunity to discuss the artificial intelligence revolution that is sweeping the world," Braverman-Blumenstyk said. "The advancements made by OpenAI are driving unparalleled human progress, comparable to the impact of the Internet revolution. I was truly impressed by Sam's dedication to promoting the responsible use of artificial intelligence for positive change. By integrating OpenAI technologies into Microsoft products, we position ourselves at the forefront of the global technology landscape, and I am proud to be a part of this transformative journey."

Despite the close links with Microsoft, the visit of Altman and his team has been managed entirely by OpenAI, amid great secrecy and tight security that would not shame a visit by a head of state.

Altman then visited Tel Aviv University to meet entrepreneurs and investors, some of them connected to Microsoft’s company accelerator in Israel and its "AI for Good" program. He also sought to meet cybersecurity companies that could assist in making generative AI available in products used by organizations such as hospitals and energy companies as the next stage for the technology that for the time being is mainly used for entertainment purposes and amateur science.

Altman was then schedule to hold an open discussion with Prof. Nadav Cohen of the Tel Aviv University School of Mathematics. "We’ll talk about the place of the academy in the AI industry, and the technology’s dangers," Cohen told "Globes". "Even if it’s not a matter of a threat of extinction, there are enough threats on the Internet and in computing that could lead to catastrophes, but for Altman it was more important to talk with the audience than to conduct a monologue."

From Israel, Altman’s world tour will take him to Jordan, Qatar, the UAE, India, and South Korea.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - - on June 5, 2023.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2023.

President Isaac Herzog and OpenAI CEO Sam Altman  credit: Amos Ben Gershom, Government Press Office
President Isaac Herzog and OpenAI CEO Sam Altman credit: Amos Ben Gershom, Government Press Office
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