OpenAI CEO Sam Altman Visits Japan As Its Government Embraces ChatGPT

Japan's welcoming stance on ChatGPT is unique among Western countries.

Sam Altman in a black jacket.
OpenAI CEO Sam Altman. Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman picked Japan as the destination of his first overseas trip since the debut of ChatGPT. The 37-year-old entrepreneur met with Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo today (April 10) and announced plans to open a new office in the country, whose government shows an unusual interest in adopting artificial intelligence technology while many Western nations look to restrict it.

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“We hope to spend much more time (in Japan) and hope to engage with the wonderful talent and build something great for Japanese people and make the models better,” Altman told reporters today after his meeting with Prime Minister Kishida, the Japan Times reported.

The same day, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said the Japanese government will consider adoption of A.I. technology, including ChatGPT, if privacy and cybersecurity concerns are resolved.

“We will make all necessary considerations on ways to deal with confidential information and concerns about information leaks,” said Matsuno, Japan’s top government spokesperson. “Once those concerns are resolved, we will look into using AI to reduce the workload of national public servants.”

Countries react differently to the sudden rise of ChatGPT

Japan’s stance on ChatGPT stands in contrast to Italy’s recent move to ban the A.I. chatbot in the country over data privacy concerns.

Last week, the Italian Data Protection Watchdog, known as Garante, ordered OpenAI to pause processing Italian users’ data amid a probe into a suspected breach of Europe’s privacy regulations.

The ban inspired other Western countries to come up with their own measures on A.I. technology. Ireland is considering a similar ban on ChatGPT. Germany is looking to limit access to the chatbot in the country. The U.K. last week announced plans for regulating A.I. using existing laws, noting that risks and opportunities surrounding generative A.I. are “emerging at an extraordinary pace,” Britain’s Digital Minister Michelle Donelan said in a speech to Parliament on April 5.

In February, the European Union proposed a new piece of legislation on A.I. called the European A.I. Act. The law will heavily restrict the use of A.I. in critical infrastructure, education, law enforcement and the judicial system.

The U.S. hasn’t yet proposed any formal rules to bring oversight to A.I. technology.

Asked to comment on Italy’s recent ChatGPT ban at a news conference today, Matsuno, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, said Japan is aware of other countries’ actions.

Japan is an early adopter of A.I.

OpenAI’s ChatGPT made its debut in Japan’s parliament on March 29. During a demo, Kazuma Nakatan, a member of parliament, challenged Prime Minister Kishida with a ChatGPT-generated question related to the Covid-19 pandemic policy and later displayed an answer to the question also generated by the chatbot. After comparing the two, Kishida lightheartedly insisted his answer was better.

“Japan is certainly one of the centers of the world, first with image generation and now with ChatGPT,” Altman said in Tokyo today. He claims there are more than a million daily users of ChatGPT in Japan.

Altman added that during his meeting with Prime Minister Kishida, they discussed “the upsides of this technology and how to mitigate the downsides.”

Despite the government’s welcoming stance, ChatGPT has been met with some resistance in Japan’s public sphere. Several universities in the country have implemented rules that prohibit the use of ChatGPT in writing essays and reports.

At a news conference last week, government spokesperson Matsuno said Japan’s education ministry will draft guidelines on the use of ChatGPT in schools amid fears that excessive use of the software might damage the learning environment for students.

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman Visits Japan As Its Government Embraces ChatGPT