OpenAI CEO Sam Altman discusses AI’s impact on education in Tokyo

June 12, 2023

Altman AI Japan

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman visited Japan on Monday, where he spoke at Keio University in Tokyo. 

Altman, who is currently nearing the end of an extensive tour of Asia, expressed optimism about global cooperation on AI, a theme that has characterized many of his recent talks. 

He told students, “I came to the trip … sceptical that it was going to be possible in the short term to get global cooperation to reduce existential risk but I am now wrapping up the trip feeling quite optimistic we can get it done.”

Back in April, Altman visited Japan, where he met with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and explored the idea of establishing an office there. Reflecting on his discussions, Altman said, “All of the conversations have progressed quite well.” 

Sam Altman on education

During his conversation with the students in Tokyo, Altman drew parallels between the revolutionary impact of AI tools on education to that of calculators. 

However, he emphasized that AI wouldn’t replace learning. He said, “Probably take-home essays are never going to be quite the same again,” adding, “We have a new tool in education. Sort of like a calculator for words. And the way we teach people is going to have to change and the way we evaluate students is going to have to change.”

In the education sector, fears loom over ChatGPT’s misuse by students and the decline of academic originality, which could lead to enfeeblement – a term used to describe humanity’s cognitive and physical decline at the hands of AI.

It’s a salient topic in Japan, where several universities banned ChatGPT, including Tokyo’s Sophia University, which published this statement:

“The use of text, program source code, calculation results generated by ChatGPT and other AI chatbots is not permitted on any assignments such as reaction papers, reports, essays and thesis, as they are not created by the student themselves.”

Altman highlighted that the best (or worst) is yet to come, “The tools we have are still extremely primitive relative to tools we are going to have in a couple of years.”

He said of OpenAI, “We will feel super responsible, no matter how it goes wrong,” and made a brazen prediction that, in the next few years, humanity would develop “as much as we’ve had in the past 500 (years),” adding, “That’s quite exciting.”

Speaking of AI job replacements, Altman was reassuring, “I don’t think it is going to quite have the employment impact that people expect.” He suggested “new classes of jobs” will emerge.

The next stop for Altman? Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, then home. 

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Sam Jeans

Sam is a science and technology writer who has worked in various AI startups. When he’s not writing, he can be found reading medical journals or digging through boxes of vinyl records.


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