Opinion | Our Oppenheimer Moment: The Creation of A.I. Weapons


CreditCredit...Andreas Emil Lund

Mr. Karp is the C.E.O. of Palantir Technologies, a company that creates data analysis software and works with the U.S. Department of Defense.

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In 1942, J. Robert Oppenheimer, the son of a painter and a textile importer, was appointed to lead Project Y, the military effort established by the Manhattan Project to develop nuclear weapons. Oppenheimer and his colleagues worked in secret at a remote laboratory in New Mexico to discover methods for purifying uranium and ultimately to design and build working atomic bombs.

He had a bias toward action and inquiry.

“When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it,” he told a government panel that would later assess his fitness to remain privy to U.S. secrets. “And you argue about what to do about it only after you have had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.” His security clearance was revoked shortly after his testimony, effectively ending his career in public service.

Sources: Nuclear explosion data from the Oklahoma Geological Survey Observatory, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute and Sweden’s Defense Research Agency, obtained via Data Is Plural. Machine learning data from researchers at Epoch A.I.

Note: Nuclear data shows explosions with at least 10 kilotons of yield.