“Nigeria has been the biggest adopter of Artificial Intelligence in Africa” – Open AI’s Sam Altman

Godfrey Elimian
Sam Altman in Lagos
Sam Altman in Lagos

According to Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI, the creator of the popular AI chatbot, ChatGPT, Nigeria is the biggest adopter of AI globally. The CEO made this known during a visit to Nigeria, where he had exclusive Q&A sessions with industry experts, founders and enthusiasts.

He also cited that Nigeria has been a successful investment hub for enterprises with whom he has also partnered as the rationale for including it on his list of nations to visit in his global tour to encourage the adoption and interest in AI.

Sam Altman with Interviewer
OpenAI’s CEO, Sam Altman answers questions

He said:

Number one, Nigeria, among all of the countries on the continent, I believe has been the biggest adopter of our technologies. Also, before this, when I was a partner at YC, we had great success investing in Nigerian companies.

Sam Altman, OpenAI CEO

Before co-founding OpenAI with Tesla founder Elon Musk, Sam was the President and CEO of Y Combinator and co-founder of Loopt and Hydrazine Capital. He has also worked briefly as the CEO of Reddit and invested in several high-profile tech companies, including Asana, Airbnb, Pinterest, and many more. 

Read also: Master these 5 essential skills to increase your chances of landing a high-paying AI job

Sam Altman’s visit to Nigeria

Sam Altman, OpenAI’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), was at an exclusive event in Muson Centre, Lagos, Nigeria, on Friday, May 19, 2023. The event is part of the CEO’s plans to tour 17 cities worldwide pushing for the adoption of AI, of which Lagos is one of them.

"Nigeria, among all of the countries on the continent, has been the biggest adopter of our technologies" - Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI
Image source – Techpoint

Other proposed visits include Toronto, New Delhi, Tel Aviv, Madrid, Brussels and Singapore. Lagos, Nigeria, happens to be the only African city that has been outlined in the tour.

One of the major reasons for the tour and the event in Lagos, which had several tech executives, investors, founders and enthusiasts in attendance, he said, was to spread interest and adoption of AI globally.

He noted that there had been much pessimism and concern about some of the associated risks that come with adopting artificial intelligence, not just in the US but globally, hence the need to solve it globally.

I’m doing this trip around the world for a month to talk to developers and a few policymakers in these different places. And the reason I really wanted to do this is I think we get quite an echo chamber in San Fransisco, we can kind of hear one thing again and again and one set of things.

Sam Altman, OpenAI CEO

This will affect everyone, so everyone’s got a say in this discussion. There are different cultures, different countries, and different people want very different things. They want a say in how they want to use this, what they’re afraid of and what they look more of.

And so one of the reasons that we wanted to deploy ChatGPT, which worked better than we ever imagined, is to get the world to start accepting AI…so that we can discuss what we want out of AI”, he further stated.

Read also: Android users to keep waiting as OpenAI launches ChatGPT App for Apple iOS

Government’s Role and Regulation of AI

Before making his way to Nigeria, Sam Altman testified before members of a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday last week about the need to regulate the increasingly powerful artificial intelligence technology being created inside his company and others like Google and Microsoft, Aljazeera reports.

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman testifies before a Senate Judiciary Privacy, Technology and the Law Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on May 16 – Reuters

The three-hour-long hearing touched on several aspects of the risks that generative AI could pose to society, how it would affect the jobs market, and why government regulation would be needed.

On questions bothering the role of government and regulation amidst the many risks accompanying the adoption of artificial intelligence globally, Altman stated he was a bit worried about over-regulation.

“Different countries are going to set their own rules but honestly, I’m worried about over-regulation. I think it’s easier to get a new technology like this wrong by over-regulating. And in general, you want to see what the actual problems are before you address them.”

Sam Altman

He noted that AI was different compared to the other super-intelligent technology that maybe results in nuclear weapons and artilleries capable of causing mayhem and destruction. According to him, when such risks become noticeable, it is then important for policymakers to take steps to mitigate them.

Well, I think there is something that’s very different about this technology than others which are, let’s say, we or somebody else actually does manage to build super-intelligent that is like an existential risk to all of us.

And when these technologies come along, which is not very often nuclear weapons roll on biotech technology with another, then we say, you know what, this is an unacceptable level of risk. We’re going to take global action to think about this. And it’s one of the very few places where I think regulation is important to be proactive and global.

Fears around education and the future of work

The future of students’ creative thinking has been the subject of a great deal of worry and alarm since the introduction of ChatGPT. More specifically, there has been a great deal of negativity around the future of work and the associated job losses that generative and conversational artificial intelligence will bring.

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In an attempt to allay this pessimism and panic, Altman pointed out that while he is confident that this would be a deal-breaker in a new way for everyone, he also recognises that some jobs will undoubtedly be lost. Yet, according to him, this has always been the case with new technologies.

“I understand why people are nervous, like education, the whole world is going to change a lot, but education is going to change a lot. And I think people have had a similar conversation many times throughout history.

My example is when I was going to school, and people were coming out of the scene.
Everybody said all of these surgeons would make people so lazy because no one’s going, no one’s going to find tax anymore. These and many other cases”,
he said.

And it turns out that in all these cases when they have better tools, we just started to raise the bar for what we expect out of ourselves. We learn more, we create more, and we do more things. And this is it like that is the entire story of human history. We keep making better tools. And you know, every time we have some skills that technology starts doing for us, we just learn to do better things and operate at a higher level.

He asserted that he expects education to evolve and students to become even smarter because they will learn more than they did before. In response to job loss, he says:

“I believe I have an optimistic answer here, but I do believe that some jobs are gonna go away and this happens with every technology. However, if you look at some of the predictions already about how AI would result in industries, they mostly haven’t come through in a surprising way, The truth is AI is really good at replacing tasks but not full jobs.”

Read also: ‘e fit hard to love our country but make we no give up’: Snapchat AI wows Nigerians with compassionate chat in pidgin

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