Tech

The Download: OpenAI’s top scientist on AGI, and gene therapy to restore hearing

Ilya Sutskever, OpenAI’s cofounder and chief scientist, is no longer focusing on building the next generation of his company’s flagship generative AI models. Instead his new priority is to figure out how to stop an artificial superintelligence (a hypothetical future technology he sees coming with the foresight of a true believer) from going rogue.

A lot of what Sutskever says is wild. But not nearly as wild as it would have sounded just one or two years ago. He thinks ChatGPT just might be conscious (if you squint). He thinks the world needs to wake up to the true power of the technology his company and others are racing to create.

He is certain that machines will one day be as smart as humans. This could, in his opinion, automate health care, make it a thousand times cheaper and a thousand times better, cure diseases, or actually solve global warming. But the problem with a technology that doesn’t exist is that you can say whatever you want about it. Read our exclusive interview.

—Will Douglas Heaven

Some deaf children in China can hear after gene treatment

Earlier this year, Qin Lixue enrolled her six-year old daughter Li Xincheng, in a study of a new type of gene therapy. The little girl, nicknamed Yiyi, was born entirely deaf. During the procedure, doctors used a virus to add replacement DNA to the cells in Yiyi’s inner ear that pick up vibrations, allowing them to transmit sound to her brain.

Yiyi is one of several deaf children who scientists in China say are the first people ever to have their natural hearing pathway restored in a dramatic new demonstration of the possibilities of gene therapy. The feat is even more remarkable because until now, no drug of any kind has ever been able to improve hearing.



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