Lately, it seems like artificial intelligence is advancing on a daily basis.

The impact of tools like OpenAI’s GPT-4 have been swift and significant. Just a short amount of time tinkering around with sophisticated chatbots or text-to-image generators can prompt us to excitedly envision a future made better by AI’s amplifying effects – or to fear for the many ways AI could be harmful.

Encouraging people to experiment with and to question AI tools was my goal with Impromptu, the book I recently co-wrote with GPT-4. As I’ve said before, the book is intended to act as a travelog of my experience with GPT-4. Above all, I see AI’s greatest potential as a human amplifier, so long as it is developed safely.

Safety is exactly what OpenAI is striving for, CEO Sam Altman says, and a critical component of that process is understanding how people are interacting with tools like GPT-4. Sam joined me on the Greymatter podcast to discuss what his organization has learned through the development and release of each product such as GPT-3, ChatGPT, DALL-E, and GPT-4. We  delve into the various ways AI can be used for good in education, medicine, and creative pursuits. We also dive into the potential risks of unregulated and unrestrained advancement of AI, and the need for public involvement. You can listen to the conversation at the link below or wherever you get your podcasts.

Impromptu is available to read for free or to purchase here, and the audio version of the introduction here.

Episode Transcript

Reid Hoffman:
I am here with delight with my friend, Sam Altman, who has assembled an amazing team at OpenAI and who has obviously made a lot of amazing and wonderful progress demonstrating a lot of the good things that are capable with AI.

One of the things I love about Sam (and I think is accurate) is he says, “Look, what I do is I help amazing people do their work and I bring a little bit of my own high ambition to help add some spice into the mix than we do.” And that’s the thing I loved about Sam and the whole team.

So Sam, welcome to the podcast. Thank you.

Sam Altman:
Thanks for having me.

You were, I think, the second person I talked to about writing a book with GPT-4, and the discussion came out of this [concept of], “Oh my god, it’s a human amplifier.”

Well, let me not just talk the talk, let me walk the walk – or write the write as the case may be – I could do a book that could be interesting on this. And you and the whole team’s perspectives on various things on AI kind of led me to do this.

And so I coincided it with the release of GPT-4 (because obviously, we didn’t want to pre-show the game), and it’s a little bit of the AI is amplification intelligence, or augmentation intelligence versus artificial intelligence, or an “AHA!” moment amplifying human ability.

Say a little bit about your view on this kind of amplification and augmentation.

I’m really curious, and I’ve been waiting for this to ask you. I realize it’s not a perfect example because you’re writing about GPT-4 itself in so many ways. But how much of an amplifier did it feel like? Did it make it 50% easier to write the book? Five times easier to write the book?

At least two times, and it might be more.

Let me work through an answer. One part of it was the huge issue – that is across all professions – which is solving the blank page problem.


You’re writing a product resource document, marketing copy, legal brief, term sheet, medical analysis, commencement speech, and you go into a prompt, type something, and it generates something! And then all of a sudden you have something, a foil. It’s like that’s the collaborator, the co-pilot to work on. And that was huge because, for example, what I would do is say, “Okay, well how could AI really help education?”, and, “What would be the critics of what AI would do in education?” And you get both [answers], and then you can go, “Okay, let me think about them, let me put them again.” And that’s all done in two minutes! So maybe it’s 2X easier and 10X the speed, something in those dimensions.

You also have this thing where something occurs to you like, “Huh – Liechtenstein has this theory of language. Pure language is following a rule. Well, maybe GPT-4 would say something interesting about it, especially when mixed with something else.” Say you just read something about Chomsky linguistics or something else, and it gives you something interesting to say about it.

All of that I think was really helpful. And so it limbered it up and it helped a whole bunch in a way. Now, it still wasn’t just like “Press button, get book,” right?

Yeah, one of the things that has been most gratifying to see is the success people have had using this as a creative tool to get past that blank page problem, to get unstuck on something, and to generate a bunch of new ideas. Clearly, it is not a replacement for creative work in any way, but as a new arrow in the quiver. I think people have had surprising success in many different ways and it has been very fun to watch the breadth of human creativity in finding out what to do with this.


Reid Hoffman

Reid builds networks to grow iconic global businesses, as an entrepreneur and as an investor.

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