The Ezra Klein Show

Best Of: Who Wins — and Who Loses — in the A.I. Revolution?



This past year, we’ve witnessed considerable progress in the development of artificial intelligence, from the release of the image generators like DALL-E 2 to chat bots like ChatGPT and Cicero to a flurry of self-driving cars. So this week, we’re revisiting some of our favorite conversations about the rise of A.I. and what it means for the world. 

Today’s conversation is with Sam Altman. He’s the C.E.O. of OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT. When I talked to him in June 2021, ChatGPT was still over a year away from being available to the public for testing. But the A.I. developments since then have only increased the salience of the questions Altman raised in his 2021 essay “Moore’s Law for Everything.” 

Altman’ argument is this: Since the 1970s, computers have gotten exponentially better even as they’re gotten cheaper, a phenomenon known as Moore’s Law. Altman believes that A.I. could get us closer to Moore’s Law for everything: it could make everything better even as it makes it cheaper. Housing, health care, education, you name it. 

But what struck me about his essay is that last clause: “if we as a society manage it responsibly.” Because, as Altman also admits, if he is right then A.I. will generate phenomenal wealth largely by destroying countless jobs — that’s a big part of how everything gets cheaper — and shifting huge amounts of wealth from labor to capital. And whether that world becomes a post-scarcity utopia or a feudal dystopia hinges on how wealth, power and dignity are then distributed — it hinges, in other words, on politics.

Mentioned: 

“Moore’s Law for Everything” by Sam Altman

Recommendations: 

Crystal Nights by Greg Egan

The Last Question by Isaac Asimov

The Gentle Seduction by Marc Stiegler

“Meditations on Moloch” by Scott Alexander 

Thoughts? Email us at [email protected]. Guest suggestions? Fill out this form.

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of “The Ezra Klein Show” at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein. Book recommendations from all our guests are listed at https://www.nytimes.com/article/ezra-klein-show-book-recs.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

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