New Connections: Harry Potter Fanfic And OpenAI


OpenAI, the influential and cutting-edge artificial intelligence company, has found itself at the center of a controversy. But what does this have to do with a Harry Potter fanfic? In a surprising twist, it turns out that the co-founder of OpenAI, Emmett Shear, has a connection to the world of Harry Potter through a fan-made audiobook version of “Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality” (HPMOR).

Key Takeaway

The connection between a Harry Potter fanfic and OpenAI highlights the intertwining interests and relationships within the AI industry. It also sheds light on the ongoing debates and uncertainties surrounding AI alignment and the potential risks associated with the development of advanced artificial intelligence.

Emmett Shear: From Quidditch Player to OpenAI CEO

An Easter egg in HPMOR reveals a once-mentioned Quidditch player named Emmett Shear, who shares the same name as the co-founder of Twitch and current interim CEO of OpenAI. As a fan of Eliezer Yudkowsky’s work, the author of HPMOR, Shear was gifted a cameo in the fanfic as a birthday present.

This connection between Shear and the world of Harry Potter may seem insignificant, but it highlights the overlapping interests between influential figures in the AI industry and the popular fanfic. Yudkowsky, who is a longstanding AI researcher, has garnered attention from key players in the AI field through his writings.

The Intriguing World of HPMOR

HPMOR is an alternate universe story that reimagines the Harry Potter series. It introduces a young Harry Potter who is obsessed with rationalist thinking, an ideology that values scientific and experimental approaches to problem-solving, eschewing emotions and religion. Yudkowsky uses the familiar world of Harry Potter to illustrate the principles of rationalist ideology, depicting Harry as a master problem-solver who challenges his cognitive biases.

Yudkowsky’s connection to influential figures in the AI industry doesn’t end with Shear. He has been associated with Peter Thiel, the billionaire venture capitalist and co-founder of OpenAI, as well as other prominent figures in Silicon Valley. Yudkowsky’s writings on AI alignment, the process of aligning artificial intelligence with human values, have resonated with those in the field.

AI Alignment and OpenAI’s Controversy

OpenAI aims to develop an artificial general intelligence (AGI) that surpasses human capabilities while keeping it aligned with human values. This alignment research is Yudkowsky’s area of expertise. However, the recent leadership changes at OpenAI have brought to light the diverse beliefs surrounding AI and its potential existential threats.

In response to concerns about AGI development, thousands of notable figures in AI signed an open letter calling for a six-month pause on AI lab activities. Yudkowsky, however, opposed this idea, advocating for a more radical approach to ensure the safety of humanity in the face of AGI development.

With Emmett Shear now at the helm of OpenAI, the company is navigating the different factions and debates surrounding the future of AI. These range from techno-optimism, which encourages unrestricted technological growth, to safetyism, which prioritizes regulated and safe AI development. Yudkowsky’s influence as a leading figure among the “doomers,” who believe that AGI poses an existential threat, is apparent.

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