Apr 26, 2024 - Technology

Altman handpicked for Homeland Security's AI safety board

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman walks through the lobby of the U.S. Capitol

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman in the U.S. Capitol lobby on Jan. 11, 2024. Photo: Graeme Sloan/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Friday he courted OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and other AI leaders to join a new federal Artificial Intelligence Safety and Security Board.

Why it matters: The board is full of AI heavyweights, including the CEOs of Microsoft, Google and IBM bringing together fierce competitors and egos in an effort to ensure AI works in the national interest.

  • The board's members also include researchers, industry critics and government officials.

Zoom in: The 16 critical infrastructure sectors the board will deal with range from energy to agriculture and the defense industrial base.

  • The board will be "focused on practical guidelines and best practices for safe, secure and responsible AI: Not a board focused on theory," Mayorkas said on a press briefing call.

Behind the scenes: Mayorkas told reporters he personally selected the board members and traveled the country to meet them in person before confirming their participation.

The intrigue: Mayorkas said he deliberately chose not to include "social media companies," including Meta and X in the group, though those companies also have substantial AI operations.

What they're saying: "I had no hesitation in selecting Sam [Altman], and he had no hesitation in joining," per Mayorkas.

  • "I met personally with Sam and his team at OpenAI's headquarters. Sam reflected a clear and deep understanding of the implications of implementing AI in our nation's critical infrastructure. Dario Amodei at Anthropic is another thought leader," he said, later name-checking Microsoft's Satya Nadella and Google's Sundar Pichai — all of whom are on the board.

What's next: The board will meet in the first week of May to discussion "foundational principles" for the group.

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