It’s hard not to be struck by the dire language used by those who best know the power of generative A.I. Creators of previous generations of technology have introduced their tools with idealistic rhetoric. Google was going to organize all the world’s information, with a motto of “Don’t be evil.” Facebook was credited with sparking the Arab Spring. Web3 is going to allow people to take back control of the Internet. But generative A.I. has been birthed with a blizzard of apocalyptic admonitions. Open A.I. CEO Sam Altman said the worst case is “lights out for all of us.” Google CEO Sundar Pichai highlighted the unsolved problem of “hallucinations” and the mismatch between the pace at which people can adapt and “the pace at which technology is evolving.” C3.ai CEO Tom Siebel, who works closely with the U.S. defense establishment, repeatedly used the word “terrifying” to describe the technology in a recent conversation with me. Elon Musk, no technophobe, says it could lead to “civilization destruction.”
Some see this as welcome candor that acknowledges that this latest wave of technology, like previous waves, carries the potential to do both great good and great evil. Better to acknowledge that up front, they argue, so we can begin to grapple with the consequences. As hedge fund founder Ray Dalio puts it: “I worry so I don’t have to worry.”
But the alternative possibility is that creators of this technology are talking about its “terrifying” nature because it is, in fact, terrifying. The genie can’t be put back in the bottle. Given the unprecedented speed of adoption, it’s already past time to start seriously dealing with the potential consequences.
By the way, do we need a new word or phrase to describe the existential dread evoked by new technologies? We are open to your suggestions. Turns out, Fortune has had a pretty good record of coining iconic phrases over our 93-year history, as the seven examples here show.
More news below.
NBCUniversal CEO resigns
Jeff Shell, the CEO of NBCUniversal, is leaving the company after an investigation into misconduct. Shell admitted to having an inappropriate relationship with a woman within the company. The Associated Press
Lyft is planning to cut about 1,200 jobs in an effort to bring down costs and deliver affordable rides, according to a person familiar with the situation. David Risher, the company's new CEO, had been considering the cuts for several weeks and said the money saved from the downsizing would be invested in “competitive pricing, faster pick-up times, and better driver earnings.” New York Times
Musk removes “government-funded” labels
Twitter removed the labels of "government-funded" and "state-affiliated" from prominent news organizations' profiles after criticism from NPR and public broadcasters in multiple countries. New York Times
AROUND THE WATERCOOLER
Bed Bath & Beyond files for bankruptcy after years-long decline by The Associated Press
It’s not just a store: Apple’s retail debut in India says a lot about the company’s future ambitions by Prarthana Prakash
Mike Bloomberg plans to leave his company to Bloomberg Philanthropies—with enormous implications for charity by Steve Mollman
Hedge funds are looking for targets—here’s what they want by Lance Lambert
Ex-Twitter execs suing for more than $1 million tell court that Elon Musk’s ‘X Corp’ name change doesn’t let company off the hook by Kylie Robison
This edition of CEO Daily was edited by Jackson Fordyce.
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