Joe Fathallah, Cardiff West Socialist Party
OpenAI, the company which owns artificial intelligence tools ChatGPT and Dall-E, able to generate text and images respectively, hit the headlines with the 17 November dismissal and prompt reinstatement of CEO and co-founder Sam Altman. OpenAI describes its objective as developing “highly autonomous systems that outperform humans at most economically valuable work” in a “safe and beneficial” manner. Altman is believed to have been pushing to build the company into a Silicon Valley powerhouse at the expense of this mission. He was rehired, just two days later, after the majority of the company’s engineers threatened to resign!
Clearly, the internal culture of the organisation doesn’t hold up to what’s written on paper. In 2019, OpenAI Global LLC (the subsidiary charged with applying the company’s research) was changed from non-profit status to “capped” profit – 100 times initial capital investment. Since then, Microsoft has sunk more than $13 billion into OpenAI.
Under capitalism, when research is carried out in the interests of profit and monopolisation, no number of well-meaning words, such as those in OpenAI’s founding statement, can keep control of the direction research develops in.
There is a lot of hype around the impact and quality of generative algorithms. Under the anarchic capitalist ‘market’, self-regulation measures will never succeed in creating a research model which prioritises safety and socially useful applications for its products over profit.
Current uses for AI systems include algorithms which market products to social media users, facial recognition, stock market prediction, and even autonomous weapons. Socialists call for public ownership under democratic workers’ control of the organisations carrying out AI research and development. This would allow for the collectively planned training of AI systems, gearing them towards useful applications in fields such as medicine, education, transport, and potentially even economic planning. We call for AI systems to be made open-source and open to scrutiny, as well as the publication of training data sets.
AI developed and trained within a socialist society, where the economy is collectively owned and democratically planned for the good of all, would have unimaginable potential. The replacement of human labour with machines wouldn’t mean unemployment and poverty, but a huge shortening of the working week without loss of pay, and the freeing up of time and energy for everyone to explore and achieve their potential.