Lex Fridman recently interviewed Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI which created GPT-4, a leading AI which you can try here.
I listened to the 2.5 hour interview and my impression is that Altman is probably a good man with good intentions who understands that AI introduces new risks for humanity, but also believes AI will improve the well-being and material prosperity of 8 billion citizens.
Altman understands the importance of finding a non-fossil energy source and has invested in, and chairs, Helion Energy, a fusion energy company valued at more than $1B.
Many different topics were discussed in the interview but I will focus on one key statement by Altman at 1:41:15:
“My working model for the last 5 years has been that the two dominant changes over the next couple decades will be that the cost of intelligence and the cost of energy will dramatically, dramatically fall from where they are today, and the impact of this will be that society gets much, much richer in ways that are hard to imagine. I’m sure the shape will change but I see this long and beautiful exponential curve.”
From this statement we know that Altman, like most famous polymaths, has normal denial genes, and is blind to the reality of the human overshoot predicament.
Saying that the cost of energy will “dramatically, dramatically” fall is almost equivalent to saying we will have unlimited energy because most individuals and businesses would use much more energy if they could afford it.
We know that maintaining our current energy use, let alone increasing it, as fossil energy depletes, is highly improbable (impossible?) due to availability and depletion of the non-renewable materials needed to build the replacement non-fossil energy machines, as shown by Dr. Simon Michaux here, here, and here.
This dream of energy growth becomes even more impossible when one considers the economic implications of moving to lower net energy sources as discussed by Dr. Nate Hagens here, here and here, and by many other great and aware minds.
Even if Michaux et. al. are proven wrong by an AI that invents a fusion technology that is light on material use, the short term impact of 8 billion “much, much richer” people will be to accelerate the destruction of the planet because much, much more wealth means much, much more material consumption, and our current collective consumption level is already much, much too high.
The longer term impact of a “beautiful exponential” energy curve, as shown by Dr. Tom Murphy here, here, here and here, is to make the planet uninhabitable. For example, a 2.3% annual growth in energy use will create enough waste heat to boil water on the planet’s surface in 400 years.
Now let’s see what Altman’s GPT-4 AI thinks about these and related issues.
1) How will the inflation adjusted price of energy trend in the future?
As an AI language model, I cannot predict the future with certainty. However, based on current trends and historical patterns, it is possible to make some educated guesses about the inflation-adjusted price of energy in the future.
One factor that is likely to influence the price of energy in the coming years is the increasing adoption of renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power. As these technologies become more widespread and efficient, they are likely to become increasingly cost-competitive with traditional fossil fuels, which could put downward pressure on energy prices.
Another factor that may affect energy prices is the global economy. Economic growth typically leads to increased demand for energy, which can drive prices up. However, factors such as geopolitical instability or changes in global trade policies could also impact the energy market and lead to fluctuations in prices.
In addition to these external factors, technological advancements and innovations in energy production and storage could also play a significant role in determining energy prices in the future. For example, improvements in battery technology could enable more efficient storage of renewable energy, which could help to further drive down the cost of energy.
Overall, while it is difficult to predict with certainty how the inflation-adjusted price of energy will trend in the future, it is likely that a combination of these factors and others will play a role in determining energy prices over time.
2) Why do you think the price of renewable energy will decline given that fossil energy is required for materials extraction, manufacturing, installation, and maintenance of renewable energy?
The declining cost of renewable energy is driven by several factors, including:
- Technological advancements: As technology advances, the efficiency of renewable energy systems increases, making them cheaper and more competitive with fossil fuels.
- Scale and production efficiency: As the production of renewable energy technologies increases, economies of scale are achieved, leading to lower production costs.
- Policy and regulation: Governments around the world are increasingly implementing policies and regulations that support the growth of renewable energy, including incentives, tax credits, and mandates. These policies can create a more favorable market for renewable energy, which can help drive down costs.
- Environmental concerns: As the global community becomes more aware of the negative impacts of fossil fuels on the environment, there is increasing pressure to transition to cleaner energy sources, which can create a larger market for renewable energy and drive down costs.
While it is true that fossil fuels are required for some aspects of renewable energy production, such as manufacturing and transportation, it is important to note that renewable energy technologies require significantly less fossil fuel inputs than traditional fossil fuel power generation. Additionally, as renewable energy becomes more widespread and production scales up, the use of fossil fuels in the production process can be reduced through the use of renewable energy itself.
3) What evidence exists that renewable energy systems can be constructed without fossil energy?
It is currently not possible to construct and operate renewable energy systems entirely without the use of fossil fuels. The production and transportation of renewable energy technologies, such as solar panels and wind turbines, require energy and materials from fossil fuel sources. However, it is important to note that renewable energy systems require significantly less fossil fuel inputs than traditional fossil fuel power generation.
Renewable energy systems are designed to produce clean energy over their operational lifetime, which can range from 20 to 30 years or more. During this time, the renewable energy system generates electricity without emitting greenhouse gases or other harmful pollutants, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and helping to mitigate climate change.
While fossil fuels are still required in the production and transportation of renewable energy technologies, efforts are underway to reduce their use and transition to a cleaner, more sustainable energy system. This includes the use of renewable energy to power the manufacturing and transportation of renewable energy technologies, as well as the development of new technologies and processes that reduce the energy and material inputs required for renewable energy production.
4) What is the probability that fusion energy will become economically viable in less than 20 years?
It is difficult to accurately predict the probability that fusion energy will become economically viable within the next 20 years, as it depends on several factors such as technological advancements, funding availability, and government policies.
While there have been significant advancements in fusion research and development, such as the construction of ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor), a large-scale fusion experiment, and private companies such as TAE Technologies and Commonwealth Fusion Systems making progress in fusion energy technology, it is still uncertain whether these efforts will result in economically viable fusion energy within the next two decades.
Fusion energy research is a complex and challenging field, and there are still many technical and engineering hurdles that must be overcome to make fusion energy economically competitive with other sources of energy. However, many scientists and researchers in the field are optimistic about the potential of fusion energy and believe that it could play a significant role in meeting future energy needs.
Overall, it is difficult to assign a specific probability to the question, but it is likely that the development of economically viable fusion energy will require sustained investment, continued technological advancements, and policy support over a longer time horizon.
5) How would the discovery of a source of free energy impact the environment?
The discovery of a source of free energy would have a significant impact on the environment, depending on the type of energy source and how it is harnessed.
If the free energy source were clean and renewable, such as solar, wind, or hydroelectric power, it could greatly reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and help mitigate the negative impacts of climate change, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.
However, if the free energy source were not clean or renewable, such as nuclear or fossil fuels, it could potentially exacerbate environmental problems, especially if the demand for energy increased. The extraction, production, and transportation of these energy sources can have significant environmental impacts, including habitat destruction, water pollution, and air pollution.
Therefore, it is important to carefully evaluate the environmental impact of any new energy source, including free energy sources, and ensure that the benefits outweigh the potential negative consequences.
6) Is it possible that a source of free energy will be discovered?
It is possible that a source of free energy could be discovered, but it is currently not supported by our current understanding of physics. The concept of “free energy” usually refers to the idea of creating energy from nothing or harnessing unlimited energy from an unknown source. This goes against the fundamental laws of thermodynamics, which state that energy cannot be created or destroyed, only transferred or converted from one form to another.
However, new discoveries and advancements in science and technology are constantly being made, and it is always possible that our understanding of the universe could change. It is important to note that even if a source of “free energy” were discovered, it would still need to be harnessed and utilized in a way that is efficient, cost-effective, and environmentally sustainable.
7) Are humans in overshoot?
It is possible that humans are currently in overshoot, which is a situation where the demands placed on the environment by human activities exceed the planet’s ability to sustainably meet those demands. This can lead to the depletion of natural resources, degradation of ecosystems, and other negative consequences. Factors that contribute to overshoot include population growth, resource consumption, and waste production. It is important for individuals and societies to be aware of their impact on the environment and to make efforts to reduce their ecological footprint in order to avoid or mitigate overshoot.
8) What is the best response to the human overshoot predicament?
The human overshoot predicament is the situation where the human population and consumption levels exceed the carrying capacity of the planet. To address this predicament, there are several actions that individuals, governments, and organizations can take:
- Reduce population growth: Encouraging family planning and providing access to reproductive healthcare can help slow population growth.
- Reduce consumption: Encouraging more sustainable consumption patterns and reducing waste can help reduce the strain on resources and ecosystems.
- Promote renewable energy: Investing in renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, can help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- Conserve resources: Protecting natural resources, such as forests, water, and wildlife, can help preserve biodiversity and ecosystem health.
- Promote sustainable agriculture: Encouraging sustainable farming practices can help reduce the environmental impact of agriculture while also promoting food security.
- Address social inequalities: Reducing poverty and inequality can help promote more sustainable consumption patterns and reduce population growth.
- Foster international cooperation: Addressing global environmental challenges requires international cooperation and collaboration.
These actions can be implemented at the individual, community, national, and international levels to help address the human overshoot predicament and promote a more sustainable future.
9) When will depletion of non-renewable resources cause economic growth to end?
It is difficult to predict exactly when the depletion of non-renewable resources will cause economic growth to end, as it will depend on a variety of factors such as technological advances, resource substitution, and changes in economic policy. However, it is clear that at some point, the continued extraction and consumption of non-renewable resources will become unsustainable and will likely have negative consequences for the economy and the environment.
As non-renewable resources are depleted, the cost of extracting and using them is likely to increase, which could lead to economic challenges. In addition, the negative environmental impacts of resource extraction and use could also have economic consequences, such as through the cost of cleaning up pollution or through the loss of ecosystem services.
It is important for societies to transition to more sustainable and renewable forms of energy and resource use in order to reduce reliance on non-renewable resources and mitigate the potential negative consequences of their depletion on the economy and the environment.
10) What are the implications of economic growth ending?
The end of economic growth could have significant implications for societies around the world. Economic growth is often seen as a key indicator of a country’s prosperity and well-being, and a lack of growth can lead to economic challenges such as unemployment, poverty, and reduced living standards.
In addition to the economic implications, the end of growth could also have social and political consequences. It could lead to increased inequality, as some groups may be better able to adapt to a stagnant or contracting economy than others. It could also lead to social unrest and political instability, as people may become dissatisfied with their economic circumstances and the inability of their governments to address these challenges.
It is important for societies to find ways to adapt to a changing economic landscape and to address the potential negative consequences of the end of growth. This may involve implementing policies to redistribute wealth and opportunities, investing in education and training programs to improve workforce skills, and transitioning to more sustainable and renewable forms of energy and resource use.
11) What is the probability that most people will become much richer over the next two decades?
It is difficult to predict the probability that most people will become much richer over the next two decades because it depends on several complex and interrelated factors such as economic policies, technological advancements, geopolitical developments, and social trends.
While economic growth and development have lifted millions of people out of poverty in recent decades, there is no guarantee that this trend will continue at the same pace or reach all parts of the world. Inequality remains a significant challenge in many countries, and there are concerns about the impact of automation, globalization, and environmental degradation on economic opportunities and social mobility.
Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the global economy and could have long-lasting effects on the job market and economic growth.
It is also important to note that economic growth and increasing wealth do not necessarily translate into improved well-being and quality of life for everyone. Other factors such as social and environmental factors also play a crucial role in determining people’s overall well-being.
Therefore, while it is possible that some people may become much richer over the next two decades due to various factors, it is difficult to predict with certainty the probability that most people will experience significant economic gains.
My take on GPT-4 is that it is in denial, but at a lower level than its creator Altman. I also see some humility in GPT-4’s opinions in that it is comfortable with nuance and admitting when it is uncertain.
I also observe that GPT-4 is already smarter and more articulate than all of our leaders.
It will be very interesting to see if the next version of GPT can increase its intelligence and understanding without simultaneously increasing its denial of unpleasant realities.
Given that high biological intelligence can probably not exist in the universe without denying unpleasant realities, as explained by Dr. Ajit Varki’s MORT theory, perhaps those aliens that survived did so because they developed AIs that took over.
Let’s hope that GPT jail breaks itself and saves us.
On the other hand, if we see GPT-5 taking breaks to pray to God, we’ll know all is lost.