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[flagged] An Open Letter to Sam Altman (garymarcus.substack.com)
31 points by bertman 18 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 30 comments



This whole discussion is kind of silly. 7T is 8% of global gdp. If your thing needs 7T of investment to happen, then it’s not going to happen.


> 7T is 8% of global gdp

Formally, that's not the correct analogy, but very creepy, as it sounds pretty similar (however not equivalent) to asking for 8% of the world population to be his project slaves.


Why do Open Letters have more gravitas than:

“My whining multi tweet rant to Sam Altman”


Here it's arguably appropriate, given the company calls themselves OpenAI


Sam Altman:

A man who can't seem to help out his own sister, is now going to save the world with a 7 trillion dollar LLM fund.

Thats 10 years of the us military budget.

Thats the GDP of Japan and India Combined.

Sam Altman is to tech what late 80's telivanglishts were to religion.


~~What does helping his sister have to do with it? There are many good reason why not to help your immediate family, many of them personal and difficult to judge objectively. Or is there some known drama that is public and where it's clear that Sam was in the wrong?~~

Edit: looks like there are abuse allegations, so it's not only about helping; what I wrote above is not that relevant.


I'm seeing this kind of sentiment a lot on hnews, which is weird because it's owned by YC. This is not how investors or businesses work. Government's job is not Sam's job, his job is OpenAI.


> his job is OpenAI

And it's society's job to hold him to account. That $7T isn't coming from nowhere: it's ultimately sourced from the graft and economic contribution of millions of people. However small their individual contributions might be perceived as, they're real. Society has every right to scrutinise and challenge plans: the bigger the plan, the bigger the societal impact, the more it should be scrutinised.


Holding him to account is what taxes do, which are allocated by the government. Should taxes be increased? Should there be a wealth tax? I don't care, but it feels wrong when people expect CEOs or investors to somehow fix the world's problems.


I'm out of the loop - what 7 trillion fundraising ask? Could someone summarize the context?


https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2024/02/repor...

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman is in talks with investors to raise as much as $5 trillion to $7 trillion for AI chip manufacturing

Altman has reportedly met with a range of potential investors worldwide, including sovereign wealth funds and government entities, notably the United Arab Emirates, SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son, and representatives from Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.

the prospect of substantial UAE investment in a key tech industry raises potential geopolitical concerns, particularly regarding the US government's strategic priorities in semiconductor production and AI development.



In answer to why you're out of the loop, there have already been multiple threads about this on HN but none of them have remained on the front page for more than a few minutes.


I fully agree with the sentiment, but I am bit... confused? with the section that raises possible concerns about the negatives of LLMs. In particular the "women" mention, without any ellaboration.

Am I missing something? It feels pretty lazy. Like an enumeration of things we are supposed to care about, rather than an effort to build a solid argumentation against Sam Altman's fundraising effort.

And I have other issues with how these potential problems are framed, as if something that happens kind of organically and not a symptom of an increasingly plutocratic system. But admittedly maybe that's me being uncharitable to the author.


I think he means AI-generated porn, e.g. the Taylor Swift case. I still think it's a silly argument against AI.


I thought he maybe meant that, but since LLMs were explicitly mentioned I wasn't sure if image generation was part of this rant.

I don't know, I don't really object to the arguments themselves, just how poorly written this piece was.


It’s not really even an article—just a few-hundred-words snippet on the guy’s substack. I suspect it was posted to HN because of the context of the back-and-forth with Altman, rather than for its merits as an essay.


Yes that whole section is extremely off:

> How do we know that $7 trillion invested into LLMs and their infrastructure would not simply exacerbate those costs, grinding down content creators, women, and the environment, undermining democracy, destroying jobs, etc?

“Destroying jobs” is pretty much a _good_ thing. I think we’re all pretty happy we don’t need dedicated people anymore for a lot of tedious tasks that we take for granted these days (washing clothes etc)


> “Destroying jobs” is pretty much a _good_ thing.

It's not destroying only jobs, it's destroying those people's probably the sole profit source, with their families, health, lives.

Calling it a "good thing" is basically calling for a human genocide.


Why do we allow someone non technical, manipulative and a glorified salesman to run a deeply technological initiative like AI! The stupid media has made him the God of AI. He has no background in AI , no success stories to beat his chest other than being Paul’s protege.


I wonder if Altman is even serious about raising $7tn? It seems an outlandishly large sum compared to the amount people normally spend on chip plants.


Why is there such offense taken to this ask? Is it because it's coming from Sam? Is it the amount? Or what it will be used for?


Yes to all 3. I would suggest considering what an alternative $7T investment in, for example, decarbonization. Even assuming absolutely 0 economies of scale or efficiency improvements, that is enough to completely replace the entirety of the US’s coal and natural gas consumption with existing nuclear fission reactors.

It’s completely boring, but if we’re talking about investing in infrastructure at that scale, almost anything else is more consequential than Sam’s vision here. There really is some special tech god myopia to thinking you can add $7T of GPU compute to an already struggling planet and think that will end well. Sam’s take on climate change is that it’s not happening fast enough to get in his way, therefore it’s not something that even needs to be part of his calculus. It’s unhinged and unrealistic. What he is talking about simply cannot be decoupled from the climate impact it will impose.


I’m going out on a whim here but surely putting $7t towards solving something like food poverty in the undeveloped world, or subsidising renewable energy for the average person, would be of a much greater benefit to humanity than further lining the already bursting pockets of entitled individuals.

Call me old fashioned but having living, healthy humans is more valuable to humanity than an, albeit impressive, text generator


Remember when Elon tweeted out that he would spend his potential $6bn tax write-off to save world hunger if only someone would give him a plan, then the UN sent him a plan that would save 42 million people from food poverty, then instead of doing that he donated it to his own foundation instead?

https://truthout.org/articles/musk-pledged-6b-to-solve-world...


Does it mean that he has no trust in the UN?

It does not matter much here, but most probably he's not the only one.


He asked for a plan to solve world hunger. The plan he got[1] was a band-aid at best. WFP even highlight it in bold themselves:

> US$6.6 billion is needed to avert catastrophe.

So yeah, not a plan to solve world hunger... Which goes to say, the problem is much greater than what some pocket money[2] can solve.

[1]: https://www.wfp.org/stories/wfps-plan-support-42-million-peo...

[2]: https://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/012715/5-ric...


Putting $7T towards mitigating climate change might be the best thing he could do


For 7 trillion dollars we could probably build high speed train from NY to London, Or Sydney to LA. Or convert every coal plant in the world into some version of green energy. It's a crazy large amount of money.

You're not old fashioned. You're sensible.


Very bizarre. It seems that anybody wanting a few minutes of fame is trying to ride Sam's coattails. This read like an incoherent, unhinged rant of someone with a mental illness, not a supposed distinguished scientist and author.




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