OpenAI CEO Sam Altman took the stage at a packed conference in Beijing, emphasizing the urgent need for collaboration between American and Chinese researchers to address the risks associated with artificial intelligence (AI) systems. Amidst escalating competition between the United States and China in the AI technology race, Altman (OpenAI CEO) recognized China’s pool of exceptional AI talent and called for Chinese researchers to make significant contributions.
Notably, OpenAI currently does not offer its services, including ChatGPT, in China. Nevertheless, Altman’s remarks echoed the sentiments of other industry leaders and senior researchers from prominent companies such as Nvidia, Midjourney, and Anthropic, who spoke at the conference. The event fostered a rare conversation between American and Chinese voices in the AI realm, aiming to prevent AI arms races, competition between research labs, and establish international standards.
As the United States imposed sanctions on China, restricting access to cutting-edge chips essential for AI development, concerns about China challenging American dominance have dominated regulatory discussions in Washington. While China produces a greater number of high-quality research papers in AI, it lags behind in groundbreaking advancements. Chinese AI development remains reliant on innovations from the United States, particularly in generative AI.
The Chinese government has prioritized AI development while enforcing regulations to ensure alignment with China’s heavily censored internet. Despite the intense competition, extensive cross-border connections persist among researchers. The United States and China remain each other’s primary collaborators in AI research.
During his congressional testimony in May, Altman cautioned against excessively slowing down American industry through AI regulation, as it could inadvertently accelerate progress in countries like China. However, he emphasized the necessity of engaging in global conversations, as the impact of AI extends worldwide.
The annual conference, hosted by the Beijing Academy of Artificial Intelligence, has evolved into one of China’s foremost platforms for bringing together Chinese and Western researchers. Covering a wide range of technical topics, this year’s event explored large language models, next-generation semiconductor design, AI applications in life sciences, and autonomous vehicles.
OpenAI CEO delivered the opening keynote on AI safety and alignment, addressing the societal implications of AI and the need to mitigate its potential harm. Geoff Hinton, known as the godfather of AI, concluded the session, expressing his concerns about AI risks and calling on young Chinese researchers to collaborate on finding solutions.
During the question-and-answer segment, Zhang Hongjiang, Chairman of the Beijing Academy of Artificial Intelligence, raised the issue of open-sourcing research. OpenAI CEO acknowledged the potential benefits of open-source in AI safety and hinted at OpenAI’s intention to release more models while striking a balance to prevent misuse.
Altman’s global tour includes engagements with world leaders, students, and developers across India, Israel, and Europe. He has stressed the importance of cautious regulation, coinciding with European regulators’ consideration of the AI Act. In China, regulators have also proposed stringent rules for AI development, aligning with some aspects of the EU act but incorporating additional censorship measures.
While Chinese tech giants and startups actively pursue their versions of generative AI technologies, authorities have detained individuals for misusing AI tools to produce fake news and engage in fraudulent activities.
The conference witnessed a remarkable turnout, both in-person and online, with attendees eagerly listening to keynote speeches from Meta’s Chief AI Scientist Yann LeCun and MIT Professor Max Tegmark. Tegmark highlighted the shared interest between the East and the West in continuing AI development while maintaining control to avoid potential catastrophic risks.
Altman’s call for collaboration signifies the growing recognition that addressing AI risks necessitates collective effort, transcending geopolitical boundaries. With the convergence of global voices, the hope for responsible and beneficial AI innovation becomes stronger than ever.