Anthropic CEO Dario Amodei Thinks Altman and Musk’s Inequality Solution Is ‘Kind of Dystopian’

Leaders in A.I. are grappling with how to manage the technology's potential effects on inequality.

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Anthropic head Dario Amodei says a solution is needed to address AI’s impact on inequality. Julien de Rosa/AFP via Getty Images

In an automated world where A.I. machines replace humans in the workforce, how will individuals earn a living? This is one of the pressing questions presented by the rise of A.I. and the emerging technology’s potential to threaten employment across various sectors. Some tech leaders have suggested a universal basic income (UBI), where all humans receive a standard recurring payout, as the solution, while others are interested in a future emphasizing equal access to A.I. itself.

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The academic Geoffrey Hinton, for instance, has urged governments to pursue UBI policies as he believes A.I. would generate wealth benefiting the rich “and not the people whose jobs get lost,” he told BBC earlier this year. OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and xAI’s Elon Musk have proposed variations of the idea. But Anthropic founder and CEO Dario Amodei, a rising star in the field, thinks imposing UBI, though “better than nothing,” is “kind of dystopian.”

“It’s better than not handing it out, but I think it’s not really the world we want to aim for,” Amodei told Time in an interview published yesterday (June 23). However, he maintains that a plan needs to be found—and quickly. “For the time being, humanity must emphasize ensuring that humans and A.I. machines are able to work together. But in the long run, a solution will be needed on how to reorganize the economy and society, he said. “And my only worry is, if the technology goes fast, we’ll have to figure it out fast.”

Amodei belongs to a small but influential group of A.I. figures attempting to reckon with how the technology they’re currently shaping could eventually exacerbate global inequalities. The former OpenAI engineer has been involved in the world of A.I. for some time, having led the development of GPT-2 and GPT-3 founding Anthropic in 2021 as one of the company’s primary competitors.

Sam Altman’s “universal basic compute” and Elon Musk’s “universal high income”

Amodei’s former boss Altman has over the years reiterated his belief that a UBI should be introduced and that trillionaires will be welcomed as long as they redistribute some of their wealth. But for Amodei, the financial concentration of power amongst a small group of individuals is “too extreme to be healthy for a democratic polity.” While the Anthropic CEO believes steps must be taken when A.I. systems overtake human jobs, he isn’t set on a future where “there are these few people that can make trillions of dollars, and then the government hands it all out to the unwashed masses.”

In recent months, Altman has begun discussing a different version of UBI. Instead of providing funds, he has proposed granting universal access to artificial general intelligence (A.G.I), a form of A.I. with human-like intelligence, when it is achieved by OpenAI. He called the proposal “universal basic compute” while speaking on the All-In podcast earlier in May, where he suggested that humans receive a small slice of a large language model to either use, resell or donate. “What you get is not dollars, but you own a part of the productivity,” said Altman.

Elon Musk, a cofounder of OpenAI who is pursuing his own A.I. initiatives through his startup, xAI, has also put his own spin on the concept. “There will be universal high income, not basic, in a positive A.I. future,” said the billionaire in an X post in December. Musk did not clarify how high income differs from basic income, although the former would presumably entail higher payouts to individuals as he noted the concept would lead to “no scarcity” and offer access to goods and services for all. But the solution still contains flaws, conceded Musk. “It is less clear how we will find meaning in a world where work is optional,” he added.

Anthropic CEO Dario Amodei Thinks Altman and Musk’s Inequality Solution Is ‘Kind of Dystopian’