Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel criticized OpenAI co-founder Sam Altman, calling him a “con man” who can’t be trusted with artificial intellgience.
Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC, Jason Redmond/AFP

  • Ari Emanuel, CEO of media conglomerate Endeavor, called for guardrails on artificial intelligence.
  • He said in an interview at the Aspen Ideas Festival that the technology will be necessary.
  • But he said OpenAI CEO Sam Altman can’t be trusted and the government needs to step in. 

Ari Emanuel, CEO of Endeavor, the sports and entertainment conglomerate, called OpenAI CEO Sam Altman a “con man” who can’t be trusted with artificial intelligence.

During the Aspen Ideas Festival on Friday, the media juggernaut was asked to share his thoughts on AI and the reassurances innovators such as Altman give about the technology.

Emanuel first thought of Elon Musk, whom he called a “friend,” and said that they disagree on many things but not on the risks of AI.

“If he’s nervous, then we should be nervous,” Emanuel said. “And I do think there should be guardrails.”

On Altman, Emanuel was less kind.

“As it relates to Sam Altman, I think he’s — he’s a con man.” he said, criticizing how OpenAI began as a nonprofit, but Altman is “now making a lot of money.”

OpenAI has an unusual corporate structure known as a “capped-profit” company in which the for-profit arm is governed by a nonprofit. Altman doesn’t directly hold equity in OpenAI.

The purpose of the structure was to ensure that OpenAI pursued artificial general intelligence to benefit humanity before it prioritizes profits. In recent months, OpenAI’s commitment to that mission has come under scrutiny.

“I don’t know why I would trust him,” Emanuel said. “I don’t know why we would trust these people.”

An OpenAI spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Two days before Emanuel spoke at the festival, Altman and Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky were at the same event, saying that building AI responsibly will require society’s input.

“We need to learn how to make safe technology,” Altman said. “We need to figure out how to build safe products, and that includes an ongoing dialogue with society.”

Emanuel said that people like Altman are likely very intelligent and that he doesn’t want to stifle innovation; however, he doesn’t trust that innovators have properly weighed the benefits of AI against the cons.

“I thought about a whole host of stuff that’s bad,” he said. “So you’re telling me you’ve done the calculation, and the good outweighs the bad. Really? I don’t think so.”

The Endeavor CEO added that government regulation will be necessary as AI continues to develop.

“I don’t want to stifle innovation either cause I do think we need AI. But we have to have the rails around it,” he said. “And I know a lot of people in Silicon Valley don’t like the government coming in — and it’s not like the government’s performed great in that area given guardrails — but this is a pretty dynamic technology that needs really long thought about what can and can’t happen.”

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