AI & Loyalty

Recent reports have speculated that Open AI’s Sam Altman and former star Apple designer Jony Ive are collaborating on a device that uses AI, possibly a phone. 

As a diehard Apple fan, this news gave me pause. I have always revered the special working relationship that Jony Ive had with Apple, and, more specifically, Steve Jobs. The body of work that they collaborated on – the iMac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, MacBook, and more – is awe-inspiring.  

I realized that I was disappointed that Ive would work with a potentially foundational product with someone other than Jobs and that this reaction was crazy. Ive should have the right to work with whomever he chooses, and indeed, he has a large industrial design company that works with many major brands like Airbnb, Ferrari, and Apple. 

However, Altman’s and Ive’s rumored “AI iPhone” led me to think a little bit about loyalty. Loyalty is something an AI will never feel. It will never feel an obligation to do something based on a prior relationship, an attachment that might make it sacrifice something to help out an ally. In a way, loyalty is irrational: why should someone commit themselves to another person rather than always keeping their options open?

Neither Ive nor Altman are AIs, of course, and both men undoubtedly feel loyal to someone or something, but their new AI device has the potential to deepen our reliance on artificial intelligence and all of the decisions that entails. Will loyalty survive in this age of AI? Will machines see any cause to be loyal or promote loyalty, or will all of the 1s and 0s compel them to look at the world merely as a zero sum game?  

I don’t know enough about Sam Altman to guess where he will land on this, but I believe in Jony Ive. He has earned my loyalty from all of the devices he has designed that have given me so much delight.

But I am nervous, all the same.