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OpenAI CEO tells Israelis the pursuit of digital superintelligence is a 'moral duty,' says he believes it will soon 'cure all disease'

Israeli President Isaac Herzog meets with OpenAI CEO Sam Altman (Photo: Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)

During a visit to Israel earlier this month, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman spoke of his vision of the future of artificial intelligence, predicting that AI will soon “cure all disease” and rid the world of poverty.

Altman, who has recently traveled the globe to speak with world leaders about OpenAI’s pursuit of artificial general intelligence (AGI), is quite vocal about the utopian dreams he harbors for the future of AGI.

He has publicly acknowledged, however, that his company’s work may inadvertently lead to human extinction. Just last month, alongside many other AI leaders, Altman signed a statement declaring that “mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority.”

After having acknowledged the dangers of AI during a panel discussion at Tel Aviv University, Altman was asked a question on the minds of many who are concerned with the AI community’s pursuit of AGI: “If you truly believe that AI imposes a danger to humankind, why keep developing it? Aren’t you afraid for your own dear ones and family?”

In response, Altman answered that the creation of digital superintelligence is both a moral imperative and an unstoppable reality.

“Why to build it? Number one, I do think that when we look back at the standard of living and what we tolerate for people today, it will look even worse than when we look back at how people lived 500 or 1,000 years ago,” Altman told the crowd of Israelis. “And we’ll say, like, ‘Man, can you imagine that people lived in poverty, can you imagine people suffered from disease, can you imagine that everyone didn’t have a phenomenal education, and weren’t able to live their lives however they wanted?’ It’s gonna look barbaric. I think everyone in the future is going to have better lives than the best people of today…I think there’s like, a moral duty to figure out how to do that.”

Liberation as “moral duty”

In Altman’s mind, the machine that he and his colleagues are working to create will liberate humanity from problems as old as recorded human history. All poverty will be alleviated, all knowledge will be shared, and all sicknesses will be healed.

“If you imagine a world where you could say, ‘Hey AI, help me cure all disease,’ and it helps you cure all disease – like, this could be a dramatically better world,” Altman told the crowd. “I think we’re not so far away from that.”

In Altman’s vision of the world after the creation of AGI, it is not just ignorance, poverty and disease that are left in the annals of a “barbaric” past

Altman said that a hypothetical future human being, remembering humanity’s pre-AGI era, would be amazed that humans once “weren’t able to live their lives however they wanted.”

Not only, then, does Altman see himself and his company as the creators of a kind of digital messiah, which will remedy humanity’s educational and material ills; he believes that part of this digital messiah’s purpose is to grant human beings the ability to “live their lives however they [want].”

If his creation is successful, human beings will be liberated from outdated boundaries that once constrained their desires. They will be able to live as they please.

While Altman’s comment may seem innocuous at first glance, a close examination of Altman’s public activity reveals a good deal about what he means by AGI allowing people to “live their lives however they [want].” 

Whereas traditional moral teaching posits a set of transcendent, objective values to which men and women ought to conform, Altman’s vision is about individual fulfillment of subjective desires. While Altman surely supports certain legal boundaries on human desires (such as laws against murder, theft, etc.), his worldview provides no objective standard by which to judge a society or an individual’s values.

Altman’s moral vision (or lack thereof) is particularly apparent in his rejection of God’s design for the family, the fundamental institution upon which human civilization depends. Rather than protecting the inherent, objective value of marriage and family, Altman treats the subjective passions of the individual as of greater importance.

In 2017, Altman received an award for advancing “LGBTQ acceptance” from GLAAD— an award which was presented to him by former Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

GLAAD is an LGBTQ organization that would like to make abortions “legal in all cases,” seeks to “normalize families with trans kids and trans people of every age,” and advocates that “puberty blockers…be prescribed as a child reaches puberty to pause unwanted physical effects of a puberty incongruent with one’s gender identity.”

In addition to supporting the dissolution of the traditional family through already existing educational and technological means, Altman has invested in budding technologies which may make motherhood obsolete.

Altman has invested in a company known as Conception since it was founded in 2018 by Altman’s then-boyfriend Matt Krisiloff. Conception says its goal is “turning stem cells into human eggs,” which it hopes will “allow male-male couples to have biological children.”

As an article from MIT Technology review notes, this technology would “supercharge the path to designer children,” and “opens the door not only for same sex-reproduction, but perhaps even for one individual—or four—to generate an offspring.”

Conception’s CEO Krisiloff has also publicly celebrated those working to create “artificial womb startups.”

Conception says that their technology would allow for “wide-scale genomic selection and editing in embryos,” and that it “could become one of the most important technologies ever created.”

As the global sexual revolution led to the so-called “liberation” of men and women from the God-given institution of marriage (via no-fault divorce laws and state-protected homosexual “partnership” and “marriage”), from the existence of their God-given children (via state-protected abortion), and from their God-given genders (via state-protected chemical/surgical castration and manipulation of the body), so men will soon be “liberated” from their inability to produce eggs, and women will soon be “liberated” from their unique, God-given role of conceiving and bearing children.

Or so Sam Altman apparently hopes.

This is just one facet of the future which Sam Altman believes AGI could help create.

It is a world in which all will be free to live as they please; a world which, according to Altman, we have a “moral duty” to bring about.

AGI as “unstoppable” reality

Altman went on to say to the Tel Aviv University crowd that the coming of this digital messiah – which shall enrich, heal, enlighten and liberate the world – is virtually inevitable.

“I also think this is, like, unstoppable,” Altman said. “Like, this is the progress of technology. It won’t work to stop it and so we have to figure out how to manage the risk.”

For Altman, the coming of digital superintelligence is what the cosmic evolutionary process is leading to, and represents the fulfillment of an ancient human longing.

“AI is the tech the world has always wanted,” Altman tweeted in May.

OpenAI’s Chief Scientist Ilya Sutskever, an Israeli-Canadian who took part in the Tel Aviv University panel discussion with Altman, also treats the coming of AGI as the inevitable destiny of human progress.

“In the future, it will be obvious that the sole purpose of science was to build AGI,” Sutskever tweeted early last year.

Sutskever has also said that AGI will be capable of love, stating that “the long-term goal is to build AGI that loves people the way parents love their children.”

This is the ideology governing the men who run what is widely understood to be the world’s most advanced AI project: evolution has led us to create a new species of benevolent intelligent life that will surpass us.

Altman has written that to coexist with this new AGI “species,” we must merge with it.

“Unless we destroy ourselves first, superhuman AI is going to happen, genetic enhancement is going to happen, and brain-machine interfaces are going to happen,” Altman wrote on his blog in 2017. “My guess is that we can either be the biological bootloader for digital intelligence and then fade into an evolutionary tree branch, or we can figure out what a successful merge looks like.”

Altman concluded his post by declaring the need for global coordination to facilitate this merger of man and machine: “It would be good for the entire world to start taking this a lot more seriously now. Worldwide coordination doesn’t happen quickly, and we need it for this.”

Over the past several years, Altman has actively worked towards this “worldwide coordination,” and has become enmeshed in some of the world’s most powerful circles. Besides being a 2016 Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum, Altman is now a three-time Bilderberg attendee.

This month’s globe-spanning trip represents another step in Altman’s movement towards the “worldwide coordination” of humanity’s “merge” with machines. And during his stop in Israel, Altman said Israel would play a “huge role” in this.

It is apparent that for Altman, Sutskever, OpenAI, and many of the institutions with which they are associated, the pursuit of AGI is not merely a matter of business; it is a matter of religion.

It is what writer James Lindsay calls “Scientific Gnosticism,” which he describes as “an inversion of science done in the name of ‘progress’ that seeks to remake the world rather than to understand it and to prosper in accordance with it.”

It is a religion centered around technological liberation, rooted in an ancient lie—the lie of the serpent in the garden, who told Adam and Eve that the boundaries God had placed on them were in fact a prison, keeping them from becoming like God.

Altman has himself recognized the religious nature of his ambitions, citing the following quote in a 2013 blog post: "Successful people create companies. More successful people create countries. The most successful people create religions."

Responding to the quote, Altman wrote the following: “The most successful founders do not set out to create companies. They are on a mission to create something closer to a religion, and at some point it turns out that forming a company is the easiest way to do so.”

Jacob Leonard Rosenberg is an American-Israeli, an Evangelical Christian and the son of the founder of ALL ISRAEL NEWS. He writes about the intersection of science, technology, individual liberty and religious freedom.

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