OpenAI’s Sam Altman reverses threat to cease European operations

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OpenAI’s Sam Altman reverses threat to cease European operations


Sam Altman, president of Y Combinator, pauses during the New Work Summit in Half Moon Bay, California, U.S., on Monday, Feb. 25, 2019.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

In just two days, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman seemed to do a 180 on his public views of European artificial intelligence regulation – first threatening to cease operations in Europe if regulation crossed a line, then reversing his claims and now saying the firm has “no plans to leave.” 

On Wednesday, Altman spoke to reporters in London and detailed his concerns about the European Union’s AI Act, which is set to be finalized in 2024, the Financial Times reported. 

“The details really matter,” Altman reportedly said. “We will try to comply, but if we can’t comply we will cease operating.”

Initially, the legislation – which could be the first of its kind as far as AI governance – was drafted for “high-risk” uses of AI, such as in medical equipment, hiring and loan decisions.

Now, during the generative AI boom, lawmakers have proposed expanded rules: Makers of large machine learning systems and tools like large language models, the kind that power chatbots like OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Google’s Bard and more, would need to disclose AI-generated content and publish summaries of any copyrighted information used as training data for their systems. 

OpenAI drew criticism for not disclosing methods or training data for GPT-4, one of the models behind ChatGPT, after its release. 

“The current draft of the EU AI Act would be over-regulating, but we have heard it’s going to get pulled back,” Altman said Wednesday in London, according to Reuters. “They are still talking about it.” 

Lawmakers told Reuters the draft wasn’t up for debate, and Dragos Tudorache, a Romanian member of the European Parliament, said he does “not see any dilution happening anytime soon.” 

Less than 48 hours after his initial comments about potentially ceasing operations, Altman tweeted about a “very productive week of conversations in Europe about how to best regulate AI,” adding that the OpenAI team is “excited to continue to operate here and of course have no plans to leave.”

The more recent proposal for the EU’s AI Act will be negotiated among the European Commission and member states over the coming year, the FT reported. 

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