Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI, talked about trolls, and the emotional violence of the internet, with Joe Rogan on a recent podcast episode.
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OpenAI boss Sam Altman discussed his social media habits on a recent episode of Joe Rogan’s podcast.
Altman confessed to sometimes having an “internet troll streak,” but says he tries to limit it.
He said trolling can even knock the lives, careers and relationships of some people off-track.
OpenAI CEO Sam Altman often seems pretty measured — even when he’s talking about the revolutionary potential of artificial general intelligence — but he confesses to still having an urge to stir up drama online from time to time.
Altman said he has “more of an internet troll streak than I would like to admit” on a recent episode of Joe Rogan’s podcast. So, Altman said, he tries not to give himself too much temptation. Though he admitted that he still slips up on occasion.
On the podcast, Altman said that trolling — or reacting with the intent of provoking a reaction out of others online — can feed our reward systems. For his part, Rogan said these types of interactions can function like a burst of energy when “there’s all these other human beings engaging with your idea.”
At the same time, Altman said he’s seen such reactive behaviors knock the careers, relationships, and entire lives of otherwise well-intentioned people off track. They just “couldn’t fight this demon” he said, without diving into specifics.
And Altman told Rogan that the way we interact with others on the internet has made us more accepting of emotional violence overall — even while our tolerance for physical violence has gone down over the decades. The fact that it’s not all that uncommon for people to send hurtful messages — like “mean tweets” to people they don’t know — and not feel bad about their potential impact is a “mega epidemic in society,” he said.
When Rogan pointed to how the introduction of the iPhone and invention of social media could be related to a potential rise in self-harm, suicide, and online bullying — particularly, he said, among young women — Altman noted the the issues are also potentially damaging to men. They just may talk about it less, he surmised, noting that he’s also deleted “a bunch” of social media apps on his phone. Altman and OpenAI didn’t respond to Insider’s request for a comment.
Altman’s discussion with Rogan maps onto larger criticisms about legacy social media platforms like Instagram and X — which Altman said “really rewards” reactivity in ways no one understands — and their impact on our emotional wellbeing.
Though these platforms once functioned like virtual town squares, their algorithmically driven feeds also bait some users into hours of doom scrolling. And some studies have suggested social media can exacerbate political divides.
In response, some people have simply resorted to spending less time on the types of platforms, while others are finding interaction through smaller group chats, or spreading their attention across an emerging set of platforms.