The bosses of OpenAI and Microsoft talk to The Economist


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Ohno reason The world's corporate elite fly to Davos every year to check in on their important relationships, from critical suppliers to big-spending clients. This year, many are wondering about their relationship with Microsoft and OpenAIthe startup behind ChatGoogle Tag. These companies are the world's leading providers of artificial intelligence (AI), which makes the business world dizzy. OpenAI exclusively licenses its technology to Microsoft. The software giant is injecting it into products ranging from Word to Windows.

The relationship between the two companies is also under scrutiny, particularly in recent weeks by EU and British antitrust regulators. In November Sam Altman, openedAIThe boss of , was fired by his board of directors, only to be reinstated a few days later. Satya Nadella, the boss of Microsoft, whose company would own 49% of the startup, supported Mr. Altman during this ordeal. The brouhaha has left many wondering about the risks of what Mr. Altman called “tech's best bromance.” When the couple sat down with The Economist in Davos on January 17, they were upbeat and mostly singing from the same sheet of music. Their partnership is “awesome” and “incredible.” They often remarked how much they agreed.

image: The Economist

A consensus emerged on the fact that the merger strengthens competition. “You can look at the vertical integration option and our partnership, and you can decide which one is more pro-competitive,” Altman says. Another was that 2024 would be a big year for AI. Microsoft's huge bet on technology this month helped it dethrone Apple as the world's largest company (see chart). Its value is close to $3,000 billion. Its next quarterly results will give a first clue as to how much corporate clients are willing to spend. AI.

Although some observers were disappointed by the progress made by the OpenAIthe latest model of, Google Tag-4, Mr. Altman hints at new abilities, such as a greater ability to understand and produce audio. Mr. Nadella says the models will improve at everything from writing essays to producing computer code. “I really think the magic of it all is in the generality,” Mr. Altman says.

The general nature of AI That's why Mr. Altman calls the technology “a new computer.” Mr. Nadella sees things in similar terms. He maintains that “since PCwe did not have […] the real engine for doing more things with less drudgery. Microsoft's supply chain team already uses AI to help them model the impact of their decisions, without having to wait for financial management at the end of the quarter.

AIChina's ability to replace skilled workers, such as accountants, raises concerns about its effects on employment. A new IMF The article suggests that people with college degrees are most exposed to disruption, but also best positioned to reap the rewards. MM. Both Nadella and Altman are convinced that AI will create more jobs than it destroys. Mr Nadella thinks this could make the job market more dynamic, allowing people to learn new skills and change jobs more quickly. This, he says, will lead to a rise in some wages and a “commodification” of others (in other words, a fall).

The disruption will be all the more dramatic with the advent of artificial general intelligence (acted), which, if achieved, would be able to outperform humans in most intellectual tasks. AI pessimists believe it could lead to economic chaos, or even a robotic apocalypse. However, produce AGI is the stated objective of OpenAI. Mr. Altman describes progress toward this goal as “surprisingly continuous.” He compares this to the evolution of the iPhone, where no new model represented a big step forward, but the jump from the first version to the latest was extraordinary. It is for this reason that he expects the agitation caused by the first AGI be short-lived. “The world will have a two-week panic, and then people will go on with their lives,” he says.

Neither Mr Nadella nor Mr Altman will say when AGI could happen. Mr. Nadella believes that by then, its use will be regulated: “Nation states will absolutely have a say on… what is ready to be deployed and what is not. » Mr. Altman generally agrees, but is a little more circumspect. Regulators, he notes, will need to weigh the risks and capabilities of AI– as with airplanes, which generate enormous benefits despite occasional accidents. Likewise, AIThe “huge benefits” of the situation mean stopping progress would be a mistake. Security is not a binary issue of using or not using a technology; it’s “the many little decisions along the way.” It marks the launch of Google Tag-4, which was postponed by seven or eight months.

Mr. Altman, ever the techno-optimist, insists that “technological prosperity is the most important ingredient for a much better future.” Mr. Nadella, a business veteran, strikes a more pragmatic note. He talks about the 20 meetings he had earlier in the day with executives from various sectors, telling them “about something they're doing that I can have a say in.” In other words, he strengthens Microsoft's relationships, as befits a big boss in Davos.

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