Citadel’s Ken Griffin says the A.I. community is making a mistake by creating so much hype

Ken Griffin, Citadel, at CNBC’s Delivering Alpha, Sept. 28, 2022.
Scott Mlyn | CNBC

Ken Griffin, founder and CEO of Citadel, believes the hype around artificial intelligence could be overblown at this early stage.

“I do think the AI community is making a terrible mistake by being full of hype on the near-term implications of generative AI,” Griffin said Tuesday during an event for Citadel’s new class of interns in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “I think they’re actually doing everybody a huge disservice with the level of hype they are creating.”

Griffin, 54, said the advanced technology will be transformative one day but it’s still in the early innings. The billionaire investor believes the threat about AI eliminating a wave of skilled professional jobs is far from reality.

“If you listen to the CEOs of tech companies, it’s going to eliminate millions of white-collar jobs,” Griffin said. “I say, ‘Not that fast.’ Some professions are accepting of errors, but you have to be really accurate in finance. You have to be really accurate as a lawyer.”

AI has been dominating headlines this year, creating a buying frenzy on Wall Street that briefly pushed major enabler Nvidia over a $1 trillion market cap. Buzzy chatbot ChatGPT, capable of taking written inputs from users and producing a human-like response, was an instant phenomenon globally, becoming the fastest-growing software in history. Even legendary value investor Warren Buffett said he took a crack at it, asking the chatbot to write a song in Spanish.

“Here’s the problem with large language models: they are built on the past, everything we do is about the future,” Griffin said. “We are at the start of the journey of large language models. It will be really interesting to see where this journey takes us. It will have a real impact across the economy.”

A group called the Center for AI Safety issued an eye-popping warning recently, saying AI could be putting pressure on the existence of humanity.

Coders under attack?

One industry that could see a material impact from AI is programming and software engineering, Griffin said. Citadel is in the process of getting an enterprise-wide license to use OpenAI’s ChatGPT.

“Programing is going be a big target for generative AI,” Griffin said, asked by an intern about AI’s impact on his business. “You want to make sure that if you are a software engineer, you are putting yourself really close to the domain problems that need to be solved. Your career path will be defined by your ability to solve problems. The days of ‘I’m a good programmer’ are becoming numbered.”

Many of Citadel’s interns have a computer science background. The firm’s internship program has become extremely competitive. A total of 69,000 students applied for about 300 positions this year. The acceptance rate of less than 1% is even lower than that of Harvard and MIT.

Griffin, who also learned programming in school, stressed that software engineering will continue to be part of the toolkit that helps run his business as the skill is crucial in identifying and solving commercial problems.

The interns are kicking off the 11-week program in Fort Lauderdale for Citadel and in Palm Beach for Citadel Securities this week.

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