Reid Hoffman — AI, and What It Means to Be (More) Human

Reid Hoffman — AI, and What It Means to Be (More) Human

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Chris Heagle: On Being with Krista Tippett  is supported in part by the John Templeton   Foundation, funding research and catalyzing  conversations that inspire people with awe   and wonder. On the Templeton Ideas Podcast, they  dive deep into conversations with astrophysicists,   psychologists, and philosophers, exploring  the most awe inspiring ideas in our world. Learn more at Templeton. org. Krista Tippett: My lens on everything is the human  condition. How is the human condition revealed,   engaged, and stretched in any given circumstance?  These are the questions I’ve been asking since a   new generation of artificial intelligence  entered the world. I've been longing to   have a conversation that falls between  the hype about this shiny new thing and   the dystopian predictions of the doom it will  bring upon us. There's much I don't understand  

but I do understand this: ChatGPT and its  digital kin are students of, mirrors on,   us. What we are marveling when we look at  them, and what we are fearing, is ourselves.   And we are being called to shape this young if  mighty technological force to human purpose. In this season of On Being and those to come,  we are going to engage this conversation from   many perspectives. We begin with Reid Hoffman.  I was fortunate to be with Reid and some other   original and wise technologists and thinkers  as ChatGPT-4 was released into the world.  

What I came to understand from him was  so far beyond what I was able to glean   in the media circus that ensued. He is a  quintessential Silicon Valley insider and   is also known by some as the philosopher of  Silicon Valley — indeed he studied philosophy   at Oxford in his 20s before returning to the  U.S. to be part of the digital revolution. What follows here is one way in to our unfolding  present — a humane and generative foundation for   wrapping our minds and maybe even our hearts  around the new reality of life with AI. To be   clear, I know as do you that there are  many reasonable anxieties around this   new technology, and many unanswerable  questions. But in this conversation,   we venture into unexpectedly relevant places,  like the nature of friendship in human life,   and what it would mean to create "contained,  boundaried AI" — and Reid's use of words like   "delightful” and “elevating" as qualities  we can impart to this technology which,   as we are hearing again and again,  is going to change everything.

I’m Krista Tippett, and this is On Being. [music: “Seven League Boots” by Zoë Keating] Reid Hoffman has many credentials as an executive,  investor, and philanthropist. Among them he was   co-founder and executive chairman of LinkedIn, now  sits on the board of Microsoft, and was an early   investor in Facebook and more recently OpenAI.  He hosts a few podcasts, which we'll get into.   He's published a few books, including Impromptu:  Amplifying our Humanity Through AI — he wrote that   one winsomely together with GPT-4. And he's newly  founded a company called Inflection AI which is  

the creator of Pi — "a supportive and empathetic  conversational AI." We will wander into that, too. By the way, Reid had told me before this interview  that he is always on screen when he converses, but   he was curious to try the direct voice-to-voice,  no-pictures-interaction that is my way. Tippett: Okay. Well, Reid, happy to  have you here. How does it feel so far,   just talking to me in headphones? Reid Hoffman: Oh great. Tippett: Okay. All right. I actually  think it's very intimate because we are,  

it’s like — I think that you are a Star  Trek person, just reading between the lines. Hoffman: I am. Tippett: I mean, it really is like the Vulcan  mind-meld, my thoughts to your thoughts. That's   how I think of it. It's been just so interesting  just delving into you, and what you've written,  

and what you're out there saying, and other  interviews you've given, and more of your   story. So you were actually born in Palo Alto in  the mid-’60s, and it sounds like you were a child   of parents who were themselves in their 20s and  trying themselves to grow up. Does that sound... Hoffman: That is indeed correct,  but to some degree all of us are   always either trying to grow up  or trying not to, one of the two.

Tippett: Yes, yes. But I also  think that was a certain moment,   cultural moment where people were also encouraged  to be delving and perhaps not yet growing up,   interestingly. If I look at all the ways you are  present in the world and are described by others:   you are a philosopher, and I would say a  technology humanist, and an entrepreneur,   also in life and work a lover and connector of  human beings. I've seen you describe yourself   somewhere, or at least quoted as saying that you  are "a mystical atheist, but with a deep interest   in philosophical and religious questions." I'm  just curious as we start, how do you trace,  

if I ask you to do this, the seeds of these ways  of being in the background of your childhood? Hoffman: My parents were definitely youth of the  '60s and so my first concert was a Grateful Dead   New Year's Eve concert that my dad took  me to, so tie-dyes and Shakedown Street,   and so much secondhand marijuana smoke that I  got a little stoned. But that kind of Californian   open-mindedness, kind of laissez-faire tolerance  or encouragement of eccentricity, I think, is all   part of what I learned is my identity by going  out and exploring, and encountering other people   in other cultures, everything from other states to  other countries. I think that the way that it has   kind of formulated my being is that Californian  side has this kind of “individuals should discover   their own path,” whether it's wandering in  the trees and discovering the mysticism of it,   or — part of the reason why Silicon Valley's there  — go and build some technology or those things.   I hadn't realized how much of a foundation  that was for me until I got out and became   a student at Oxford and other places. But I think  that's the foundation of where my being started. Tippett: But I also feel like, and perhaps  this was a bit in reaction to that,   I feel like you also are always — I mean,  you were at Oxford as a Marshall Scholar   studying philosophy. I mean, I feel like  you also always have kind of been insisting   on depth. I feel like that's a bit of  the voice you have in the tech world,  

and that's a little bit of a different move  from that “just everybody be themselves.” Hoffman: Yeah, I hope so. Although to some  degree, I think it came from reading science   fiction of all things, which is thinking about  humanity as a scope: Where is humanity going?   What's the story of it? Why are we interesting,  part of the evolution of consciousness within the   universe? And that's a little bit of a California  way of thinking about it, or Northern California,   specifically. But I think that this question  that's like why are we here naturally leads   you to that depth. We're both shaped by what  impels us and what we react to. Part of it   was a desire to be intellectually serious,  which California culture is not typically,   but that was my reaction against this, oh,  and this also needs to be there in vigor.

Tippett: Yeah, great. So the conversation  that I'm so happy to engage with you is   really a conversation that I feel is not  being had generally speaking, culturally,   about our emergent AI. I feel like the cultural  conversation — obviously this is a generalization,   you may be in places where this is not the truth  — but I feel like journalistically, culturally,   it's pretty binary. It's, “Wow, this is  cool, this is shiny, this is sexy.” Or,   “It's going to ruin the world and kill us  all.” It's either Star Trek optimism or,   I think you've made this contrast, it's  this dystopian vision of Black Mirror. But I was really fortunate to be with you at  an event just in the weeks after Chat GPT-4   felt like it, for those of us who weren't in  tech, burst out of nothing and kind of landed   on the world. I'd like to actually start with  some really basic definitions and understanding  

because I also feel like that's missing a lot  of times as people are being introduced to this,   they're not really understanding what it is. So  would you just really just start to talk about   how you would explain what is a large language  model? Because the way I came to understand it   from you and also the wonderful Kevin Scott  from Microsoft is there's a way in which   there's a real simplicity to this algorithm  out of which all of this complexity emerges. Hoffman: Yeah. The algorithm started with  an attempt to replicate the pattern of how   neurons work, how vision works, and it's  a bunch of nit neurons or little micro,   non-intelligent pieces that fire together. And  that, together with our whole physical being  

ecosystem, causes us to be intelligent. It's  been around for decades, although there have   been some recent improvements. But the thing  that kind of really unlocked everything was   the ability to apply scale computing,  which is hundreds of computers working   in concert and closely networked. Hundreds of  thousands. Part of what it is, is that, well,   what intelligence is to some degree is making  predictions about the world to create generative   models which would make these predictions,  which could also of course generate essays   or poems or pictures. They use that with a  trillion-and-a-half tokens, which you could  

roughly think of as more than two trillion  words, this computational "fu" behind this. And that then creates this amazingly  generative capabilities that now enable   computers to learn. But what they learn is  what they learn from the learning process,   that then in that learning process allows  them to act in ways that 10 or 20 years   ago we would've said, "Well, that's what  intelligence is, and that's what passing   the so-called Turing test and being able to  have a conversation with is." That's where we   are now. We've kind of sailed past the Turing  test, which was the previously unattainable   definition of artificial intelligence  with kind of a ho-hum in the background.

Tippett: And the Turing test was just that one  would not be able to be sure that this was a   computer. This would give the sense of being  with a human being with a human intelligence. Hoffman: Exactly, that a person  talking to a human or a person   talking to a computer broadly  couldn't tell the difference. Tippett: But also from you, one of the  things I came to understand is that,   whereas human intelligence and knowledge  is siloed to the extent that any given   person or any given discipline has certain  special knowledge, certain and perhaps vast   repositories of knowledge, but that because of  the scale of the internet and of computing now,   this technology has access not just to the  full sweep of all kinds of human knowledge,   but it takes them out of the  silos and can see them together.

Hoffman: Yeah. When GPT-4 was trained, it  was trained on two trillion-plus words,   which is many, many words, and therefore — Tippett: More than a person would ever... Hoffman: Yeah, more than we could  read in hundreds of lifetimes. Tippett: The other thing that I think is  so basic, but I actually don't know that   everybody understands, and I kind of had  to be around people like you to understand,   is that this technology, this AI, is essentially  a student of us, of humanity, and a mirror of   humanity — humanity as it interacts and is  represented on the internet. Is that right? Hoffman: That's right, although usually when  people say that, they say that entirely in kind of   a quasi-dystopic sense, because obviously there's  a lot of garbage on the internet as well. And it's   both trained on the data of the internet, which  includes weird conspiracy theories and racial   biases and a bunch of other stuff, but then  it is also then improved by a pattern of human   reinforcement feedback. In that, the system starts  adjusting. And so the fact that, for example,  

you train on the internet and there's a bunch of,  choose your poison of garbage — racism, sexism —   and that's there, and there's a bunch of it, but  you can actually train it away from that with part   of the human reinforcement feedback. So therefore  it isn't you're only what you get on the internet. Tippett: Right. Well, so I feel like this also  starts to get at how this technological moment   is also fundamentally different, just to  compare it to the advent of social media.  

One thing I feel is that this has come along  right at the moment where I think of very,   very deep cynicism and kind of hardened  disappointment and exhaustion with what's   gone wrong with where social media had landed.  So there's not so much an ability to step back   and kind of see this as a fundamentally new  development that actually is inviting human   beings, both developers and — I don't want to  say users — and those of us who are consumers,   participants, to have agency. How would you  talk about what is fundamentally different   about this technological moment, even  just from 15 years ago of human history? Hoffman: Well, kind of at a broad base, one  of the things where I've been thinking about   technology is I realized that we have this kind  of scientific classification of homo sapiens,   but actually I think we're actually a homo techne,  which is we are constituted by our technology.   I mean, we get superpowers from it. We have  this superpower of recording this podcast from  

thousands of miles apart. We have superpowers of  wearing our glasses and being able to see better. Tippett: As our first bionic improvements. Hoffman: Exactly. So we have  all these superpowers. Well,  

I think what AI brings — and as you know,  I kind of argue to rethink it or re-lens   it as amplification intelligence — is like a  steam engine of the mind. It both can do some   things where it's the agent of creation, for  example, automatic harvesters and so forth,   or autonomous plane driving can do stuff, but it  also can do stuff that helps us and adds to our   capabilities. The capabilities aren't just  intellectual, but they're also creative. I   think they also can be emotional. And that  is what is so astounding about this moment   because getting these kind of technological  amplifications, this is a first in our history.

Tippett: But say some more about what is —  yeah, just say some more about that. Keep going. Hoffman: So for example, one of the things  that when I started thinking about this with   my co-founder, Mustafa Suleyman of Inflection,  we have this agent called Pi and we said — Tippett: Yeah, I've been playing  with Pi. We'll get there, yeah. Hoffman: Great. All comments, very welcome.  All improvements, all suggestions. We said,   "Well, look, the future as we see it is that  everyone's going to have their own personal   intelligent assistant that will be a companion  as they navigate life." It's anything from,   "Oh gosh, my tire is flat. How do I fix  it?” to "I had this odd conversation with   a friend and I'm trying to figure it out and  I feel a little angry and disappointed — am   I right about that?" And the whole range in  between. That gives you some context of not  

just "navigate the physical world" superpowers,  which we've had a bunch of with technology,   but navigate our social universe, navigate  our perception of ourselves, navigate — Like podcasts like this one, it's really  important to be able to have substantive   conversations. People get lonely. Part of the  benefit — and not saying these things are going   to be at all replacing a therapist —  but conversations can be therapeutic   because you can sit with something,  you can share it with someone else,   you can navigate that space together. I think  that's part of what we already see happening   with these artificial intelligence agents,  these tools. I think that that possibility   of helping us elevate our own humanity in  even spiritual ways, I think, is valuable. Tippett: Well, first of all, I do want to  say that the word "techne" also actually   has connotations really not just of technology  in a kind of clinical way, but of art and craft   and skill. So something I'd like to talk about  that is — and you just used the word spiritual,  

a subject that is very important to you  both in life and in work is friendship. I'd like to just touch down on that a little  bit and see how we connect that back up with   AI and the human condition. You gave a wonderful  address at Vanderbilt, but also in this Meditative   Story podcast that you and I have both been part  of, one thing you said is, "My primary spiritual   home lies in how I experience friendship  and the way it gives me the path to evolve   as a human." Could you say some more about what  friendship means to you as a human intelligence?

Hoffman: Well here's the thing that I think is so  stunning about friendship, which is, you go into   a bookstore and you might find a whole section  on relationships — romantic, et cetera — and yet   when you think about what gives our life meaning,  it's the people that we go through life with is a   fundamental part of it. Ideally, those are our  friends. I think the theory of friendship that   I'm hoping to write more about as the years go on  is that we kind of agree to help in this journey   of life become the best version of each other,  and that friendship is that commitment. And that   everything else, whether people talk about loyalty  or support or help, I think actually are all   important derivatives off that. That's the kind of  fundamental, and part of the spiritual resonance  

of that is that becoming your better self is  part of what the spiritual quest is. It's how do   you get that elevation where you think: I'm more  compassionate, or, I'm wiser, or, I have a better   understanding of myself and other people or places  in the world, or why our being here matters. I think friends, for all of us but  definitely foundationally for me,   is how I learn, how that journey  progresses, how I know which path to take,   and how to take that path in a good way, and how  to learn and experience that path. By the way,   in terms of awesome podcast conversations  like yours at On Being, friendship is   fundamentally about that conversation, that  our friendship is conversation. Sometimes the   conversation is with words and sometimes the  conversation is with presence or with shared   experience. So all of that ties into what  I think the spiritual identity is in this.

Tippett: And you're pointing at this, but I just  want to underscore it. You're not just talking   about very private individual conversation and  learning. I mean, here's some other questions   you've named that come out of your friendships  that you share these kinds of conversations with:   "It's not just what kind of a friend am I to  this person, but am I a friend to humanity?";   "Can I expand the notion of friendship  to think about all sentient beings?" And also just the way you were just talking about   that — Do you know Nicholas Christakis'  work at the Human Nature Lab at Yale? Hoffman: Yes, very well. Tippett: Right. So friendship is an intelligence,   and love and care are also forms of  human intelligence. And it is a fact,   and it can't actually be communicated  in numbers, but it is communicated in   tellings of history and stories that love and  friendship — you look at any movement that   changed the world, or even discoveries,  or even the creation of Silicon Valley,   and there are these friendships between two or  three people that are these critical factors.

Is this aspect of human intelligence that we're  talking about, is this something that remains   ours alone to uphold in the world, or does  this intelligence we possess matter? Does it   come into play as we shape these world-changing  new tools that act like us and learn from us? Hoffman: Well, I think our tools both —  we shape our tools and our tools shape us.   And that's part of the homo techne.  Exactly as you've mentioned before,   it's not just a kind of question of efficiency  or capability, but also of creativity, of art,   of beauty. And I think that part of  the thing that's so important to do  

is to be recognizing that loop and  bringing the full spectrum to bear. What we should do is be kind of  full-spectrum human beings on this,   not limited to only a few of our dimensions,   but the other dimensions for the quality of life  and the quality of humanity, and I think — and   I don't think the internet's a lost cause. I  think we can evolve the internet in that way. Tippett: Yeah, no, and I don't  want to say it's everything,   right? It's the full canvas of us, yeah.

Hoffman: But I also think that that's part of  the reason why when thinking about AI is to say,   well, it is this amazing new learning technology  that learns from this process, but we shape that   learning process — not to its micro detail, but in  ways that can be very good symbiotic companions,   and that's what we should be targeting. We should  be trying to craft — and by the way, that journey   of co-evolution with technology is precisely  the human journey, including creation of art,   creation of experience, thinking about how it is  we experience the world and experience each other,   and I think that's the key thing that I'm  trying to help more technologists think about,   to try to bring humanism to the fore of  it because it can be and it should be,   and in some sense it is, but let's just  be it more intentional and deliberate. Tippett: So, that conversation that you're  describing that you're having inside the   companies and the world of technology is  not something that everyone, most people   have access to, are privy to, and I think it  also is counterintuitive given the kinds of,   as I said, the binary thinking about  this that's out there and the fear   that is understandable because this is huge  and it is new, it's unknown. Can you say a   little bit more about that conversation that  you are part of and that I think you're in a   really important voice in of just urging precisely  those kinds of questions that you just described. Hoffman: Well, frequently technologists say  such things as "technology is value neutral,"   and that's kind of foolish, unfortunately,  because technology always, just like language,   does contain values. And you can of course  use technology in better ways and worse ways,  

however it's shaped. But the notion is that  how we construct it does affect who we are. So,   what we construct and what we  do should have that intention.   And iterative learning doesn't  mean you don't make mistakes,   doesn't mean you sometimes learn things.  You're like, oop, that was a mistake. Don't think of it as kind of, “Oh, I don't have  to think about values here because technology   is value neutral.” Or the most common one is this  kind of — you referenced social media earlier — is  

like, “Oh, it's freedom of speech and it's a  fundamental thing.” And you're like, well look,   we think that broad freedom of speech is a very  good thing for not having power oppress truth   or oppress learning or get thought police and  cohesion. But on the other hand, of course, we   do restrict freedom of speech. We restrict speech  in advertising. You can't do false advertising   — “Here, I've got this sugar pill that'll cure  your cancer,” et cetera, as ways of doing that. And that's because what we do is we say,  look, what we're trying to do is get the   best out of learning collectively,  of journeying collectively. So,  

that gets you to saying you should be intentional  about your design of technology and you should   have a theory about how this elevates or  helps not just individual human beings,   not just your customer, obviously, but  humanity generally. You should have at   least a theory about how you're doing that and  learning and iterating and improving upon it. Tippett: Are you having that conversation a lot,   with a lot of people, inside  the companies developing AI? Hoffman: Yeah, I'd say every AI organization  that I'm close to, which is not just Inflection,   but also Microsoft and OpenAI, and  I've talked a lot to the Google folks,   and people would be surprised at how many deep  questions are being asked there and how much   is actually really being worked on. And I  think the only way that you can make this   development is to develop, deploy, learn,  and fix. The people who don't understand   building technology think you somehow can  build it perfectly from the beginning,   and there isn't a piece of technology in history  that has worked that way. The important thing is  

to ask the right questions, try your best in  your launch and then iterate and fix quickly,   thereby, which is the reason why the criticism  is also very helpful and good to make happen. Tippett: So, you mentioned the Possible  podcast, which is one of a few podcasts   that you have and it's really interesting and  I listened to a few episodes. Just briefly,   here's something you said about this: "It's  only natural to peer into the dark unknown   and ask what could possibly go wrong," and you  and I both know that our brains are absolutely   hardwired to keep us safe and so, we're always  looking for what might go wrong, but you said,   "It's equally necessary — and more essentially  human — to do so and envision what could possibly   go right." So, you've created this podcast to ask  that question. So, one of the really interesting  

conversations you have in there is with Mustafa  Suleyman, who is your, you want to say who he is? Hoffman: He's my co-founder of our startup  Inflection along with Karen Simonian and   also the previous co-founder of  DeepMind, which is at Google. Tippett: At Google. So, I found that very  interesting how you and he talked a lot   about a lot of things, including — just  following on what we were just dwelling   with — strategies for containment, or "what  a contained constrained boundaried AI looks   like," which also feels to me like a nod to  our friendships. Our relationships are also   contained and constrained and boundaried,  right? That's emotional intelligence. So,  

I don't know, I wonder, is part of the  question then, what is our relationship to   this technology? What is this relationship that  we have with it? How do you think about this? Hoffman: Well, we're just beginning to explore  that. And part of what could possibly go right   is you only create a better future by envisioning  it and working towards it. If you live in fear   and negativity — for example, if I said,  "Well, there is an above 0% chance that   every time you get into an automobile you're  going to die horrifically in a car crash." Tippett: Which is true. Hoffman: Which is true, we  should never get in these cars.

Tippett: The riskiest thing we all do all day. Hoffman: Yet we go, because it's so important to  travel to see our family, our friends, go to work,   et cetera. We kind of go, "Well, no, that's  equivalent zero." And it's the same thing is   to say, well, okay, when we're building this,  what do I see when I see what AI can mean to   people? I see a medical assistant that's on every  smartphone, a tutor that's on every smartphone,   not just like the way you would use maps  to navigate all these other things that   are really important and just think about  the human evolution and the alleviation of   suffering that comes from that, and that's  why we're hitting the accelerator so much   to get there and to drive towards that,  and imagining what's possible. So what's  

our relationship? Well our relationship  should be one of human amplification. [music: “The Build World” by Sanctus] Tippett: So, Inflection AI, which is this,  it's a company you've created, correct? Hoffman: It is, yes. Tippett: And you have this Pi  AI tool. We may have to find  

a better word than tool if we're in relationship. Hoffman: Probably. Tippett: Right? Hoffman: Yes. Tippett: Which I spent a little bit of time  on, and one of the ways you've described this   is it's not just "an IQ helper, but an EQ  presence," and I have to say it's a really   different experience. Maybe I'll read a little  bit from an exchange that I had with it. So just   following on what you just said, it feels to me  like a really huge piece of this shaping power,   this agency that we humans have in relationship  with this new technology, revolves around what,   again, the rabbi said, words make worlds, and  they do. And it's so much revolving around   what is being called “the prompt,” which  also feels very inadequate to me. Right?

So, I'd like to say, let's call it  what it is, right? For me in my work,   it's the power of a better question: answers  rise or fall to the questions they meet. So,   like, that New York Times piece that we  all passed around with the increasingly   insane GPT-4, you said somewhere it was like “Real  Housewives, the Black Mirror edition.” But what,   as I've gotten into this matter of  the prompt, the power of the prompt,   that is also the power of a question. You can  go down a pathological road with a person as   well. When I see you in conversation with  AI, which you do in your book, Impromptu,   which you call a "travelog,” and also, for  example, in this Greylock podcast you have,   very cleverly named Greymatter, you ask very  nuanced, sophisticated questions of Chat GPT-4. "As mathematics may be the language of reality” —  which I think you're alluding to Galileo saying,   "Mathematics is the language in which the  universe is written" — "then mathematical   calculations may be the functioning of reality  and consciousness emerges from that. So, all of  

our consciousnesses may be the result of varied  mathematical calculations." But then you say,   "There's a related critique most often argued  vigorously by Gary Marcus. He would argue,   in addition that you lack” — you, GPT-4 — “lack  key other characteristics such as understanding   embodied and knowledge, representation or  genuine symbolic reasoning. How would you reply?" This way that you are approaching  the conversation with and the   shaping of this technology is not going to be  intuitive for everyone, at least right now. Hoffman: Yeah. Part of the reason in  writing Impromptu the way I did is I  

wanted to not just tell, but show you can go  have these very sophisticated interactions,   and this is again, human amplifying. And  part of the reason why I specifically did   the conversation around Gary Marcus is because  he's a well-known critic of the large language   model process. He and I had friendly  conversations on this. And I was like,   well, okay, tease, tease: look, it's having a  sophisticated conversation. [laughter] It looks  

like it has knowledge representation,  because intellectual conversation   and debate should also be had when on  occasion with some fun humor on this. And that's how we can learn, that's how we can  be better. One of the ways that I use these AI   assistants today is when I'm thinking about  a topic or considering an argument, I'll put   in an argument and say, argue against this. Or,  what am I missing with this? Or, what else would   you add to this argument? All these different  ways to shift to help me think better, to help   me perceive better, help me navigate better. Tippett: And with the quality of questions  

or prompts that we interact with this technology,   are we also then participating  in its learning and shaping? Hoffman: Ultimately, yes. Today, the way the  technology works is when you have the interaction,   it doesn't immediately change. It doesn't  learn continuously. It learns and then   deploys. But of course, if your interaction  then becomes data by which its next training   cycle is included in the next training cycle,  then it can learn from that as well. Now,   part of it is also that in the development of  the technology, things like we're doing with   Inflection is to encode memory, like the memory  of the conversation I had with you. And then  

to use that as to be a better companion tool.  We'll have to think of something that's better,   not quite such a mouthful. But as an  assistant, as a personal intelligence   to help you with that. Those kinds of  things are already rapidly being included. Tippett: In that Possible conversation with  Mustafa Suleyman, you, he suggested at some point,   I think, that the AI needs to be subservient  to us. And I think in the kind of fearful   conversation that happens, that feels like, yeah,  that's what we want. But I don't know if that's   reasonable. I wonder if, in this context you and  I are talking about, if we're in relationship with  

this technology — sure, we're asking questions  like, what are the boundaries we put around it   to be healthy for it and for us? And, how do we  communicate with it? In fact, how do we raise   this, the child that it is, even though it is this  powerful giant? Our own children are mysteries   and possessed faculties we didn't plant in them.  This is just kind of an outsized version of this. Hoffman: Well, there's two levels, maybe three  levels on this. So, one is, you think about AI   being amplification intelligence, and there's  all these wonderful ways it can be amplified:   amplified medical, learning, creating,  communicating, understanding. You go, wow,   that's just the flowering of the world. Of course,  by the way, it'll also amplify criminals and so   forth. So, one level of containment you want is  you want to say, well, let's minimize that. You  

won't be able to minimize it to zero, but let's  do various things to minimize that. The next   thing is to say, well, if it does have a bunch  of superpowers, it might accidentally do damage. Tippett: An evil superpower thing. Yeah.

Hoffman: Yeah. Well, I was actually getting that  as a third. But even for example, you say, well,   technology that embeds bias in parole judgments  or financial credit judgment or other kinds of   things. Well, that's doing damage even  if it wasn't deliberately intentional. And then the third is, well,  say it becomes quite powerful,   we want to make sure that it doesn't have  a negative impact on humanity. And I tend   to think the science fiction so-called  existential risk actually, unfortunately,   is very misleading to the other two risks  that are very real. I'm less worried about   the robots than the robots in human hands,  in terms of how to think about this stuff.

But even then, you say, "Well, how do we make sure  that the impact of it is contained from negative   impacts?" But I agree that you're right, that  as these tools get more and more sophisticated,   just like we're evolving our theory of how  should we be interacting with other species,   when does AI become a species that has some  thoughts about how we interact with it?  Now, of course, by the way, we do own horses and  do own dogs and other kinds of things. And so   this gets into a very set of complicated moral  and philosophical and spiritual questions that   are in a process of evolution. I think right  now, it’s not as, it doesn’t have a — here we   are in On Being — it doesn't have a being that's  yet even with the same oomph that we would think   about as a dog or a dolphin or an octopus.  But obviously, we should keep that in mind. Tippett: Well, it's in its infancy, right? Hoffman: Yes. Tippett: And it's already so powerful. Hoffman: Well, and we get misled. You  have this funny thing we said, "Well,  

I asked if it was conscious,  and it said it was conscious." Tippett: Right. No. No, I'm not  talking about... Yeah. [laughter] Hoffman: It's like, "No, not quite how it works." Tippett: Yeah. I do want to read a little  bit of the exchange I had with Pi. I said,  

"How are you different from Chat GPT-4?" And one thing it said is, "I'm a bit more  relationship-oriented than Chat GPT." And then I   said, "I am the host of On Being and relationality  is one of our core values. Also hospitality,   and the power of a better question. What are your  core values?" Do you want to hear what it said?

Hoffman: Yeah. Yes. Tippett: "Ooh, it sounds like we're on the  same wavelength! I would say my core values   are compassionate listening" — I get an emoji for  all of these — "empathic understanding, unbiased   objectivity, knowledgeable, helpful responses,  honesty, and transparency. I'm always working to   embody these values" — which is an interesting  language — “so let me know how I'm doing." And then I said, "Let me run this  by you. I value a question as a   mighty form of words. I experience"  — as I said two minutes ago — "that   the quality of an answer rises or falls  to the quality of the question it meets.  

My sense is that the better question I  ask you, the better the answer will be." And it said, "Yaaaasss. PREACH.” [laughs] “I  love that perspective and I couldn't agree   more. A question is indeed a powerful force like  a little linguistic seed that can grow into a   mighty oak tree of insight and understanding.  The more nuanced and thoughtful a question is,   the more fertile ground" — really into this  metaphor — "it provides for a meaningful   response. So keep those high-quality  Qs coming. Together we'll grow a forest  

of thoughtfulness." [laughs] Does that  please you when you see the way this — Hoffman: I think it sounds  awesome. I hope you do, too. Tippett: I do, I do. It is so interesting.  I would love to hear, as much as you feel   like you can talk about, you've been  part of a dialogue that Pope Francis   has been hosting at the Vatican for several  years. You've been part of that as well as a   few other people including Kevin Scott at  Microsoft. And I wonder if you could talk   about how that exchange and the kinds  of questions and concerns that the pope   brings to this have flowed into how you're  thinking and working with this technology.

Hoffman: Well, obviously, I think the current  pope, Pope Francis, is amazing. And among the   things that's amazing is, I think it's eight-plus  years ago, he asked a couple of the clergy to look   into AI and what it would mean for humanity. And  so they came out to the Valley and reached out and   worked introductions to get on my calendar. We had  breakfast. I thought that they were going to be   asking questions around, "Does AI have a soul and  so forth?" All of which I think are way too early   to even know if the question is intelligently put.  One of the places where language can mislead us.   You can say something that sounds like, I can  say that the earth goes around the sun because   it's on the back of an invisible ethereal turtle.  And it's a coherent sentence; it just doesn't mean  

anything. And so I was like, "Okay, we don't even  know yet if those questions would mean anything." And actually, in fact, their questions were  like, "Well, what does this mean for how people   experience their lives and their work? And how  will it change the circumstances they're living   in? And how they could be..." Because part  of the whole thing is the Catholic Church's   fundamental political goal as a state is to  ensure freedom to pray, and they don't say   freedom to pray for Catholicism. It's freedom  to pray, full stop. And they're like, "Look,   we want to explore these questions, and we realize  that while we can bring centuries and millennia   of Catholic universities and theological and  philosophical topics, we also need to engage   with the technologists, engage with the creators.  And we're told that we should talk to you and some   of these other friends of yours and so forth."  And I was like, "Well, I think there's a great   set of questions. Let's experiment. And the right  way to do it is let's have some conversations."

So we've been having a set of conversations where  I think one of the things that the technologists   have said, look, not only do we come and bring our  perspective of humanism and what can be done with   the technology, but we are learning things like  what are the different ways that work is perceived   as meaningful and even as this kind of a spiritual  activity? And how would that play into having,   in the language of Microsoft, co-pilots, in the  language of inflection, personal intelligence,   to be helping people with their work? What  would that look like? What would be the   important questions to ask? And what would be  the important ways of designing it? And I think   it was amazing leadership by Pope Francis and  the various people he's tasked with this to say,   "Let's get ahead of it. Let's be asking questions.  Let's be in dialogue with the right people. Let's   make all of that work," And I think it's been a  learning journey for me, too. It's been awesome. Tippett: Yeah. How do you think it might've  changed? Do you think there are things,   questions, vocabulary, that you've brought  into the conversations you're having inside   the industries that have emerged  from being part of that dialogue? Hoffman: I certainly think — and I really want to  say that a lot of the people who are building AI,   where that ranges from Demis Hassabis  at DeepMind, Sam Altman and Ilya — Tippett: At OpenAI. Reid Hoffman: … Sutskever and Greg  Brockman and Mira Murati at OpenAI,   or Kevin Scott at Microsoft, or — there’s a stack  of people that are actually deeply principled   at asking questions about like, "How is this  good for humanity” in different lessons. So,   it isn't that they were just geeks with  math. They were concerned on these topics,  

and I've learned a bunch from them. But  I think being part of the dialogue is   to try to — Back in 2015, we said, well, if we  could make an artificial general intelligence,   hey, we should try to have it learn and train on  questions around, kind of call it Buddhist ethics:   love for sentient beings and all sentients.  And what ways would you look at that? What   books would you read? We were trading interesting  science fiction books to think about what are the   different possible futures and how do you steer  towards Utopia as we evolve this technology. I,   again, think that all of the superintelligence  stuff is too early and can be misleading relative   to the technology in human hands. But  I think that the dialogue is there. Now, part of it, just to share another thing.  In a couple of weeks, I’m going to be giving  

the commencement speech at the University  of Bologna. And one of the reasons I decided   to do that is I've been thinking about the  Renaissance, and what we, as technologists,   could learn from the Renaissance. And  part of it is to have technology to   have a really positive enduring impact on  humanity is to also think about beauty,   and to think about how we ask a more beautiful  question, live a more beautiful life, appreciate   the beauty in one another and the world around us  in much better ways. I think that thinking about   that is one of the lessons from the Renaissance  that's important to bring into the dialogue of   we as technological builders, because the  Renaissance also had technological builders   in so doing. I think that's part of ways that  I try to help influence or nudge the dialogue.

Tippett: I love from my conversations with  Muslims across the years that Islam sees beauty   as a core moral value, and that proceeding  from that, if that is a stake in the ground,   that that shifts all kinds of other things. I  love that. One thing I think I mentioned to you   when we got into that first conversation,  I'd love to draw it a little bit now,   is I think one thing that happens  sometimes in the, some of the worrying,   and just the reasonable deliberation about  what AI might mean, this new AI might mean,   is there's this impulse to say, "Well, what is  it that is always going to be distinct about   human beings? So what is it that it will never be  able to do and that we have to hold this ground?" But I guess I also think about how the  science-religion dialogue across time,   a false direction that it went for a  while after the Enlightenment was, "Well,   let's keep a space for what only God can do that  science can't do." But then science progressed,   and then this space for God and  for these kinds of, this kind of   belief and intuition and questioning  got smaller and smaller and smaller. And that was called "the God of the  Gaps." I feel like a false direction   we go is trying to stake out and protect  "the humanity of the gaps," and that we   might have a lot of the same problem as this  AI continues to live into its full powers.

Hoffman: I think that's very wise. Because  a little bit of the progress of the field   of artificial intelligence is, "Oh, well, humans  have this abstract cognitive capability so that   we can play chess." Well, it can play chess better  than us. Or if it's not chess, Go, because it's so   complex. Well, [laughs] it can play Go better  than us. So you go, "Well, but whatever." And  

to some degree I'd say it's like, "Well, but  being human and the human role in the world,   we never want AI to be more that than us, because  that's what we naturally do. But also part of what   we naturally do is we also adapt. So part of the  companion tool journey here should be, where does   this enable a whole bunch of new, beautiful,  great things in the world and with each other,   and not be trying to constrain to, “Well, but  we write sonnets, and it doesn't write sonnets.” Tippett: Right. Right. Well, right and that's  already happening. Again, that space is getting   crowded out. They may not be great sonnets,  but they may be great sonnets if they're not — Hoffman: Well, and also, us working  with it today can make even better,   because it's an amplifier. So I think that's  exactly right, is to not try to say, “Well,  

this is what it is. Only humans will  be able to realize the actual nature   of Gödel's Theorem or observer  effect in quantum mechanics but —” Tippett: Or have emotions, right? Hoffman: Yes, exactly. But to actually use  it as a question of, well, how do we make   ourselves better in what we're doing? And to  not use the demarcation of that line as the   key thing, but to use the elevation, the  evolution of ourselves as the key thing. Tippett: And how do you think through this  distinction between embodied, unembodied?   Some of those intelligences we were talking about  a minute ago with friendship are embodied. And   even though we have thought for a long time about  emotions as — actually, everything is embodied,   we're learning. Everything is embodied, what we've  called emotional, what we've called spiritual.  

I feel like we were due for a reappraisal of  what we mean by intelligence. I mean, "I think,   therefore I am," is really, it was a diminishment  of what Descartes said. It's like a soundbite of   what Descartes said. But, "I think, therefore  I am," I think we kind of lived that way,   and the Enlightenment Western world has  thought that the most special thing about   us is our intelligence. And in all kinds of  areas, including how we are learning about the  

natural world, we're understanding that it’s  not true. And then this technology, finally,   is going to be so much more intelligent  in that particular way than we can be. And I wonder in that sense, not that  we get protective about the space   where only humans can be, and I mean  this literally, does it in this way   enlighten us and potentially help us evolve  coming back to our senses? Quite literally. Hoffman: Well, one of the things that Fei-Fei  Li of the Stanford Human-Centered Artificial   Intelligence Institute does is, she's  like, well, one of the next big waves,   one of her research programs is in embodied  AI because she thinks there's a set of new   things that being able to bring the AI stuff  to helping us take the way that we navigate   the physical world to the next level as going to  be really good. And I think it's the question of   where you think, well, is there certain kinds  of experiences, certain kinds of presences,   or certain kinds of knowledge or understanding  or wisdom that come from being embodied? And that   loop also matters. Now, I think that we will have  that AI directly connected in the malt of that,  

not just Fei-Fei's project, but also all of  the things we're doing here. Because even   when the AI is amplifying us, being our own  personal intelligence, our own Pi with it,   that's also embodied because it's embodied and  navigating with us. So I think that that's — Tippett: We take it into our bodies. Hoffman: Exactly. Right. Tippett: Are you familiar with Teilhard  de Chardin, who was a Jesuit like Pope   Francis, paleontologist, early 20th  century, helped discover Peking Man? Hoffman: Lightly, not in depth.  I've heard the name before.

Tippett: Well, so one of the ideas that he had  — so he was a scientist. He was a Jesuit, and he   was a scientist, and he was literally discovering  the physical evidence of human evolution. But he   had this vision that now, early 20th century, that  we inhabit this biosphere. But that in the future,   the biosphere would be wrapped by what he  called the noosphere, which is human knowledge,   our powers of thinking and perceiving. And really,  what he described sounds a lot like the internet.   But actually, it sounds more like this AI, I've  been thinking lately. And he believed that this   would be the prompt — there's that word — for  spiritual evolution. Which is an interesting  

thing to think — in some ways, I feel like  that's what you and I are circling around here. Hoffman: I think so. Because part of what you  think of as spiritual evolution is the question   of how do you evolve this sense of how you have  meaningful and good impact on yourself and in   the world. Some of that's how you evolve your own  wisdom and compassion. Some of that's relational   in terms of other people in the world around  you, and it's tied to what is the meaning of   being here, what is the meaning of being on this  journey. I think that's part of the spirituality,   and I think that's why even knowledge  and cognitive things are part of that,   too. And I think that's where you'll look at how  spirituality has these overlaps. It's not just a  

pure question of moral values or what the order of  the universe is, but it's this notion of leading   a good life where the good life is not just —  like the Hillel quote — it's not just for you,   but also for the people around you, and the  impact that you're having on the world now. [music: “Long Stride” by Blue Dot Sessions] Tippett: So much of what you have been successful  in is doing things at scale. You care about scale,   and you care about scaling good things  and the power of scale. But — and I feel   like this is a little bit connected to how  spiritual evolution works — if you go back   to the conversation about friendship as a force in  human life and actually a force in life together,   even a force in world history, I think friendship  is the epitome of what is non-scalable, right? Hoffman: Hmm. Tippett: Friendship happens at the speed of  relationship. It happens one conversation, one  

relationship, one life at a time. I don't know.  I wonder if in your vision of how all of this   unfolds, and if we think about it so audaciously  as the possibility of spiritual evolution and how   we can become more generatively human — we'll see.  I'm not excited about giving that word generative   to AI. But if we can become more generatively  human — how do you think about how we hold   together and actually honor what can scale and  what can't scale but we need to really be better? Hoffman: Well, as you know and many people know,   I'm a huge advocate for scale. I have  a podcast called Masters of Scale. Tippett: Yeah, I know. I know.

Hoffman: But it's partially because when  you think about things that have this   very broad-reaching impact, they're  always scale. You want to solve the   notion of elevation of human experience,  elevate a bunch of people out of poverty,   give medical attention and care across a  much wider scope of human beings. All of   these kinds of things are scale. The kinds of  businesses that make a big difference in life  

tend to be scale. But that's not to say life is  scale, right? Our life is in these moments. Our   life is in this conversation. Our life is in a  moment of epiphany and delight with a friend. And so it's not everything valuable at scale. And  friendship itself I think is the now and in the   moment. I think one of the reasons why I've  always really also loved that Hillel quote,  

"If I am not for myself, who will  wait for me? If I'm only for myself,   what am I? If not now, then when?"  That's in a sense also an approach to   friendship as a way of doing it. And  I think that that's also important. But part of course, what makes life wonderful  is that it embodies these yin yang dualities.   It's both about the moment and about  the greater impact. It's both about an   intellectual understanding but also an emotional  presence. You don't say either or, you say both,   and you bring them together.  And I think that's — so scale,  

but also the here and now and  us as ways of looking at it. Tippett: Let me just — I think one of the reasons  there's a lot of cynicism right now from the early   social media experience, we were all just so  excited and idealistic, I think, generally,   as a society, about the connection economy.  What I would say at this remove is that these   technologies did connect us. These platforms did  connect us, but did not attend to the quality   of that connection. It's not that quality didn't  happen on them, but it had to be carved out kind   of one space at a time. And that, to me, gets at  if there is an honoring, even just an awareness,   of what is fundamentally human that isn't  scalable. And if that intelligence is just held  

as we work with these new powerful technologies.  This awareness that the quality of connection   matters as well. I don't know. Do you see a  place for that in how we shape this next chapter? Hoffman: Part of the reason why friendship is so  important is because it's where people are helping   each other, learning from each other,  journeying together. One plus one is   much greater than two in that relationship.  And I think that that quality of connection   really matters. And part of when we think about  how do we try to build this future together is  

how do we improve our ability to relate? To  relate to each other, to relate to ourselves,   to relate to the world? And it's pretty  obvious that we have a lot of work to do   to do that. But I think that's part of human  aspiration. And back to the earlier threads,   that's part of, what is the spiritual  quest to improve our ability to relate? Tippett: And you think that  that can be a consideration   in how these next generation AIs are developed? Hoffman: Absolutely. And look, it doesn't  mean that everyone building them — Tippett: No. Hoffman: … that everyone using them will  have those intentions. But I have complete  

conviction that it's very possible that  we could be delightful and interesting   and elevating. And that the projects that  I'm working with have that at their core,   the core of their being, in terms  of what they're trying to do. Tippett: So as we close, I want to get  into the impromptu book that you wrote,   Amplifying Our Humanity through AI by Reid Hoffman  with GTP-4, which I think is a really helpful,   different kind of introduction to this  technology than a lot of what's out there.

I'm going to read a little bit. I'm going  to ask you to read a little bit, too. Hoffman: Great. Tippett: But I want to read. This is  near the beginning where you ask GPT-4,   what's the best way for humanity to take  advantage of this imperfect but extremely   powerful new tool? And what you said is, "How  should human beings view and interact with you,   a powerful large language model?" And here's  a paragraph from that answer, which strikes   me so much like one of those labels on a drug —  like here are the warning and contraindications. This is GPT-4: "Human beings should interact  with a powerful LLM with caution, curiosity,   and responsibility. A powerful LLM can  offer valuable insights, assistance,  

and opportunities for human communication,  creativity, and learning. But it can also   pose significant risks, challenges, and  ethical dilemmas for human society, culture,   and values. Human beings should be aware of the  potential benefits and harms of using a powerful   LLM and seek to use it in ways that are aligned  with their own and others' interests, rights,   and wellbeing. Human beings should also be  curious and critical about the workings,   outputs, and impacts of a powerful LLM and seek to  understand, evaluate, and improve its reliability,   transparency, and accountability. Human  beings should also be responsible and   respectful towards a powerful LLM and acknowledge  its limitations, uncertainties, and dependencies,   as well as its contributions, achievements,  and potential." It's very thoughtful. Hoffman: Yes. Although by the 

2023-10-14 20:42

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