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Few are involved in as many different AI pursuits as Hoffman, the Silicon Valley investor who co-founded LinkedIn.
"I'm banging a very strong positivity drum," venture capitalist Reid Hoffman said of artificial intelligence.Loan...Η Clara Mokri dla The New York Times
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Report from San Francisco.
Reid HoffmannBillionaire entrepreneur and venture capitalist cares about artificial intelligence, but not for itcauses of destructionmaking headlines. Instead, he worries that doomsday headlines are too negative.
So, in recent months, Mr. Hoffman has engaged in an aggressive thought leadership project to extol the virtues of artificial intelligence. He did it in blog posts, television interviews, and small talk. He spoke with government officials from around the world. He runs three podcasts and a YouTube channel. In March, he released the book "Impromptu", written together with A.I. toolGPT-4.
This is all part of the public opinion land grab around A.I. preparing for when the initial outburst of fear and hype around the technology turns into a coherent conversation. Parties will be elected, regulations will be proposed and technological tools will be politicized. For now, industry leaders like Mr. Hoffman are trying to swing the debate in their favor, even as public concerns appear to be mounting.
"I hit the positivity drum too hard and I'm doing it on purpose," he said.
Few are as intertwined in so many aspects of a rapidly changing industry as Mr. Hoffman. The 55-year-old sits on the boards of 11 technology companies, includingmicrosoft, who bet everything on artificial intelligence, and eight non-profit organizations. His venture capital firm, Greylock Partners, has backed at least 37 AI projects. companies. He was one of the first investors in OpenAI, the most important company in A.I. startup and recently resigned from his board of directors. He also helped findartificial intelligence earring, an artificial intelligence chatbot startup that has raised at least $225 million.
And then there's the more abstract goal of "uplifting humanity," or helping people better their lot, a concept he communicates in a kind and meaningful way. Mr. Hoffman believes that A.I. is central to this mission and highlights its potential to transform sectors such asHealth care— "give everyone a medical assistant" and education - "give everyone a teacher."
"That's part of the responsibility we have to think about here," he said.
Mr. Hoffman is part of a small group of affiliated CTOs leading the AI division. fees, many of which were pioneered in the recent Internet boom. He is a member of the "PayPal mob" of former PayPal executives, which includes Elon Musk and Peter Thiel. The last two supported DeepMind, an artificial intelligence. Run itGoogle bought, all three were early proponents of OpenAI. Jessica Livingston, founder of startup incubator Y Combinator, also invested in OpenAI.Sama Altamana, CEO of OpenAI, was previously president of Y Combinator.
Mr. Musk now hasBeganhis own artificial intelligence company X.AI. Mr. Thiel's venture firm, Founders Fund, has backed more than 70 AI projects. companies, including OpenAI, according to PitchBook, which tracks startup investments. Mr. Altman has invested heavily in AI. startups as well as operating OpenAI, which in turn has invested in seven AIs. start-ups through the seed fund. And the latest batch of Y Combinator startupsadjunct78 focused on artificial intelligence, almost double compared to the latter group.
Tech leaders differ on the risks and opportunities of artificial intelligence and have expressed their focus on the marketplace of ideas.
Musk recently warned about the dangers of artificial intelligence on the Bill Maher show and in a meeting with Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. Mr. Hoffman explained the potential of the technology to Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigie. Last week, Mr. Altmanhe saidduring a congressional hearing that "the benefits of the tools we have implemented so far outweigh the risks."
According to Mr. Hoffman, warnings about the existential threat to humanity from artificial intelligence exaggerate the potential of this technology. and he believes itother potential problems caused by A.I.— job losses, democratization, economic collapse — have an obvious solution: more technology.
“Solutions live in the future, not by cultivating the past,” he said.
It's a tough subject for the public, which has seen the devastating effects of technology over the past decade, includingmisinformation on social mediaand autonomous vehicle accidents. This time the risk is even greater, said Oded Netzer, a professor at Columbia Business School.
"It's not just about risk, it's about how fast they move," Netzer said of tech companies' handling of AI. "I don't think we can expect or trust the industry to self-regulate."
Artificial intelligence advocate Mr Hoffman said the campaign was aimed at building trust where it breaks. "That doesn't mean there won't be damage in some areas," he said. "The question is, could we learn and repeat in a much better situation?"
Mr. Hoffman has pondered this question since he studied Symbol Systems at Stanford University in the late 1980s. There he imagined how A.I. would facilitate our "Promethean moment," he told aWideo en YouTubesince March. "We can create these new things and we can travel with them."
After working at PayPal and co-founding the professional social network LinkedIn, in 2002 Hoffman began investing in startups, including Nauto, Nuro and Aurora Innovation, focused on applying artificial intelligence. transfer technique. He also joined A.I. ethics committee at DeepMind.
Mustafa Suleiman, co-founder of DeepMind, said Hoffman differs from other venture capitalists in that his main motivation is to do good in the world.
“How can we serve humanity? I was asking that question all the time,” Suleiman said.
When Suleyman started working on his latest startup, Inflection AI, he found Mr. Hoffman's strategic advice so helpful that he asked him to help found the company. Greylock invested in the startup last year.
Mr. Hoffman was also there in the early years of OpenAI. In 2015, at an Italian restaurant in San Jose, California, he met with Musk and Altman to discuss the origins of a company whose mission is to provide the most powerful artificial intelligence. "benefits all mankind."
Several years later, when OpenAI was considering corporate partnerships, Hoffman said he encouraged Altman to meet with Microsoft, whichbought LinkedIn in 2016.
Altman said he was initially concerned that Microsoft, a giant with an obligation to put its shareholders first, would not take OpenAI's mission and unusual profit-cap structure seriously. In any large, complex business, Altman said, "everyone worries, 'How is this actually going to work?'"
Mr. Hoffman helped smooth things over. He spoke to Altman about various concerns while wearing metaphorical "hats" as an OpenAI board member, a Microsoft board member, and himself.
"You have to be very clear about what hat you are talking about" Mr. Hoffman said.
Altman said Hoffman helped OpenAI "shape Microsoft and think about what would be interested in, what would be good, what would be bad and the like for us."
In 2019, OpenAI and Microsoft reached a levelbillion dollar dealwhich has given them a leading position today. (To avoid a conflict of interest, Mr. Hoffman did not participate in the negotiations and abstained from voting to approve the deal on each board.)
It was only a year ago that Mr. Hoffman saw the progress that OpenAI was making.GPT-3language model, had another Promethean moment. He immediately overthrew the A.I. to incorporate just about everything he's worked on, including Greylock's new investments and existing startups, as well as his podcast, book, and conversations with government officials.
"They basically said, 'If it's not this, it had better be something absolutely critical to society,'" he said.
OpenAI launched a chatbot,ChatGPT, in November, which became a sensation. An investment by Greylock, Tome, shortly after incorporating OpenAI's GPT-3 technology into its "storytelling" software. Tome's user base has grown to six million from several thousand groups, said Keith Peiris, CEO Tom.
Mr Hoffman said his approach was shaped in part by his access to "very high-quality information streams", in part by his business relationships with Microsoft, OpenAI and others. Some of them come from various philanthropies, such as the Stanford AI. Center.
And some for their political connections. He invested millions of dollars in Democratic campaigns and political action committees. He said that Barack Obama is a friend.
For now, it's using its influence to paint a picture of AI-based progress. Inside technicians cheer on their cheerleaders. The rest of the world is more skeptical. recentlyquestionnaireconducted by Reuters and Ipsos showed that 61 percent of Americans believe that A.I. may represent a threat to humanity.
Hoffman dismisses these fears as exaggerated. He anticipates more tangible problems facing AI, including its tendency toI am spewing false information, will grow as tech companies update their systems and build them to help.
Looking ahead, he said, there will be more investment, more podcasts, more conversations with government officials, and more work on Inflection AI. He stressed that the way to deal with the threats of artificial intelligence is to steer the world towards the positive.
"I'm a technology optimist, not a technology utopian," he said.
Cade Metz delivered the reports.
Erin Griffith reports on technology startups and venture capital from the San Francisco office. Before joining the Times, she was a senior writer at Wired and Fortune. @erriffith
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