Warren Buffett Warns A.I. Breakthroughs Are Like Atomic Bombs in WWII

"With A.I., it can change everything in the world, except how men think and behave," Buffett said, alluding to a famous quote by Albert Einstein on atomic bombs.

Charlie Munger and Warren Buffett
Charlie Munger (left) and Warren Buffett. Visual China Group via Getty Images

Warren Buffett compares breakthroughs in artificial intelligence to the invention of atomic bombs during World War II—one of his biggest fears.

At Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholder meeting on May 6, the 92-year-old investor said Bill Gates recently showed him some of the latest artificial intelligence efforts in the tech industry. He was as much impressed as concerned.

“It can do remarkable things, like checking all the legal opinions since the beginning of time,” Buffett said. “And when something can do all kinds of things, I get a little bit worried, because I know we won’t be able to un-invent it.”

Buffett and Gates are cofounders of the Giving Pledge, an initiative encouraging the world’s wealthiest individuals to donate the majority of their fortune to charitable causes. Gates’s Microsoft has been building A.I. applications using large language models developed by OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT in which Microsoft is a key investor.

“We did invent, for very, very good reason, the atom bomb in World War II,” Buffett said. “It was enormously important that we did so. But is it good for the next 200 years of the world that the ability to do so has been unleashed?”

Buffett is a vocal opponent of nuclear weapons. He has called the possibility of a nuclear war “the ultimate problem of mankind” and repeatedly urged governments to minimize the risk of devastating nuclear attacks. In an interview with CNBC in April, Buffett said the prospect of a nuclear war or another pandemic kept him up at night more than the future of Berkshire Hathaway.

“With A.I., it can change everything in the world, except how men think and behave, and that’s a big step to take,” Buffett said at Saturday’s meeting, paraphrasing a famous quote from Albert Einstein in 1946 on the power of the atom.

During a Q&A session at the shareholder meeting, a member in the audience asked Charlie Munger, Berkshire Hathaway’s vice chairman, whether he thought A.I. would have a positive impact on the financial markets and society as a whole.

“Well, if you went into BYD’s factories in China, you would see robotics going at an unbelievable rate. So, we’re going to see a lot more robotics in the world,” replied Munger, who turned 99 in January. BYD is one of Berkshire’s top 10 stock holdings.

“I am personally skeptical of some of the hype that is going into artificial intelligence,” Munger added, joking, “I think old-fashioned intelligence works pretty well.”

Berkshire’s vast investment portfolio is known for its small exposure to technology companies. The only two U.S. companies Buffett invests in that have ongoing A.I. projects are Apple and Amazon. But their A.I. efforts are not as aggressive as Google and Microsoft.

Warren Buffett Warns A.I. Breakthroughs Are Like Atomic Bombs in WWII