Overthinking the risks of AI is its own risk, says LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman: ‘The important thing is to not fumble the future’

LinkedIn cofounder, former OpenAI board member, Greylock Capital partner and Inflection AI cofounder Reid Hoffman believes that AI’s risks are merely speed bumps in the process of transformative innovation.

“There’s so much dialogue about risks of all sorts,” said Hoffman on Tuesday at Fortune’s Brainstorm AI conference. “Yes, we need to pay attention—and be in the dialogue about—the risks, but the real important thing is to not fumble the future.”

Hoffman, a cofounder of AI chatbot company Inflection AI, likened the release of LLM-based technologies to the commercialization of cars in the 20th Century. Society would be car-free—and worse for it—today if we had considered only on the risk of crashes and injuries but not the benefits of the automobile, he said.

This is important because since Hoffman started his career at Apple in 1994, he has served as the CEO of LinkedIn, executive vice president of PayPal, board observer at Airbnb, board member at OpenAI and Microsoft and many more. Now, as the founder of Inflection AI, which is valued at $4 billion less than two years into its existence, his opinions continue to shape technology for hundreds of millions of people. 

Hoffman praised President Biden’s October Executive Order on AI as a “very good start” to protect consumers from the potential harms of AI. The Order, which, among other things, mandates that the OpenAIs of the world share the results of their safety tests with the federal government is “exactly the kind of approach we should be taking on critical technologies like AI,” said Hoffman.

One real danger of AI that worries Hoffman is election interference, particularly in the upcoming 2024 U.S. Presidential election. “We will see players like the Russians and other folks interfering with our election,” Hoffman said. “It will be up to the platforms to figure out defense strategies.”

The concern was echoed by other speakers at the Brainstorm AI conference including tech investor Vinod Khosla, and Jim Steyer, the founder and CEO of Common Sense Media. “These are really serious issues,” Steyer said of election interference, calling it a “watershed moment for our democracy.” But Steyer was decidedly less sanguine that Hoffman when it comes to the platforms, or the government, figuring out how to deal with the AI election threat. The public needs to “call out key platforms and shame them,” he said, because the government “can’t get their act together.”

Read more from the Fortune Brainstorm AI conference:

Accenture CTO says ‘there will be some consolidation’ of jobs but ‘the biggest worry is of the jobs for people who won’t be using generative AI’

Box CEO Aaron Levie’s top takeaway from OpenAI meltdown: ‘Don’t have weird corporate structures’

Most companies using AI are ‘lighting money on fire,’ says Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince

Khan Academy’s founder says AI ‘coaches’ will soon submit essays to teachers instead of students

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