OpenAI’s Mira Murati is optimistic about AI. Should she be?

June 13, 2024

Journalist Kara Swisher questions Murati about the potential dark side of the rapidly evolving tech

Veteran tech reporter Kara Swisher offered Mira Murati, OpenAI’s chief technology officer, a piece of advice she’s offered to many tech company leaders before during a recent taping of her podcast, On with Kara Swisher, at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg Center.

“If you’re in a ‘Black Mirror’ episode, maybe you shouldn’t make it,” Swisher said, invoking Netflix’s show that explores the dark side of technology. Swisher’s comments came after she described a forthcoming OpenAI tool capable of recreating a person’s voice based on a 15-second recording.

Murati resisted on Swisher’s assessment, calling it a “hopeless approach.” She added, “These technologies are amazing, and they have incredible promise. We can get this right.”

The exchange encapsulated much of the conversation, with Swisher questioning Murati about the potential drawbacks of AI technology and the CTO arguing that the benefits far outweigh the risks.

Swisher asked pointed questions about potential copyright infringement when OpenAI uses existing content to train its models, the company’s recent dustup with actress Scarlett Johansson, and whether it’s taking the transformative nature of its technology seriously.

The podcast host summarized the criticism she often hears of OpenAI: That the company prioritizes the “shiny new products” over worrying about the impact of those products.

Murati called that viewpoint cynical and said her entire team is “working extremely hard to develop and deploy the systems in a way that is safe.”

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Rolling out AI responsibly comes down to managing risk, Murati added. Pointing to her background as an engineer, she said, “The entire human civilization is built on engineering … our bridges, everything. There’s always a risk that comes …and you manage that risk with responsibility. But it’s not just the developers, it’s a shared responsibility.”

Similarly, when it comes to regulating AI, Murati spoke about the need to find the “right balance” between flexibility that enables and encourages innovation and guardrails that protect the public.

Underscoring each of Murati’s comments was a sense of optimism about the technology.

“This technology’s incredible, and it will allow us to do just amazing, amazing things,” she said. “I’m very excited for this potential in science, discovery, in education, in particular in health care.”