OpenAI's Sam Altman says the UAE could be an AI 'sandbox' for the world

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OpenAI's Sam Altman says the United Arab Emirates acts as the world's “regulatory sandbox” to test artificial intelligence technologies and then lead global rules that limit their use.

“It's very difficult to get all the regulatory thinking right in a vacuum,” Altman told the UAE's AI minister in a virtual presentation at the World Government Summit. “And if there's a way that I can give people a future and allow them to experiment with it, then what makes sense, what goes wrong, what goes right, that looks like an interesting experiment.”

The world needs a unified approach to govern future advances in AI, says the leader of OpenAI, whose ChatGPT pushed the technology into the mainstream. “For some reason, I think the UAE will be set up as a leader in discussions about that,” he said on Tuesday.

The comments came as Altman courted investors in the Middle East for a semiconductor initiative to develop AI. The United Arab Emirates has invested heavily in AI and made it a key policy consideration, but its ties to China have raised some concerns in the United States.

On Monday, the chief executive officer of G42, an Emirati AI company controlled by UAE National Security Adviser Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan, told Bloomberg that the company would scale back its presence in China to satisfy Washington's demands. G42 OpenAI, Microsoft Corp. and has a partnership with Cerebras Systems Inc.

In his comments on Tuesday, Altman said OpenAI also plans to open source some additional large-language models developed by his company, but has not yet decided which ones. He also said the company will develop tools for poor countries that cannot afford the huge costs of developing their own AI systems.

“We want to make it understandable for countries that want to provide AI services,” Altman said.

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