OpenAI Ousts CEO Sam Altman

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The surprising capabilities of ChatGPT, such as solving complex puzzles and handling questions that appear to require human-like reasoning, stunned AI researchers, amazed the public, and triggered an arms race among big tech companies to build more powerful AI. The bot’s success turned Altman into a tech celebrity, consulted by world leaders on the future path of AI technology.

Altman appeared yesterday at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco, telling hundreds of business and government leaders that AI systems could solve humanity’s most-pressing problems if their development were pursued responsibly.

“We’re on a path to self-destruction as a species right now,” he said, sitting alongside executives from Meta and Google. “We need new technology if we want to flourish for tens, hundreds of thousands, and millions of years more.”

Altman acknowledged that success wasn’t certain, but he expressed confidence that AI would ultimately be beneficial, describing the technology as his life’s work, from childhood. “This will be the most transformative and beneficial technology humanity has yet invented,” he said.

OpenAI was founded in 2015 as a nonprofit focused on safely developing AI more intelligent than humans. It was funded by Musk and others, including Peter Thiel and LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman.

OpenAI became a for-profit company in 2019, as the cost of building and training advanced AI became challenging. It struck a partnership with Microsoft in 2019 that saw the software giant invest a billion dollars and provide cloud computing power for training OpenAI’s algorithms. This year Microsoft agreed to invest a further $10 billion into OpenAI.

OpenAI developed a number of cutting-edge AI projects in the years after its creation, but the introduction of ChatGPT in November 2022 quickly turned the company into one of the most important businesses on earth.

Microsoft was given a brief heads up about OpenAI’s announcement of management changes today, according to a person familiar with the matter speaking on the condition of anonymity. They declined to say what Microsoft was told about the OpenAI board’s justifications.

Microsoft later posted a statement from CEO Satya Nadella saying that the company is committed to its partnership with OpenAI and to Murati and her team. “Together, we will continue to deliver the meaningful benefits of this technology to the world,” Nadella’s statement says.

Updated 11-18-2023, 1:10 am EST: This article was updated with Brockman’s post on the OpenAI board’s actions.

Updated 11-17-2023, 8:25 pm EST: This article was updated with news of Greg Brockman’s resignation.

Updated 11-17-2023, 7:25 pm EST: Updated with Microsoft CEO statement.

Updated 11-17-2023, 6:20 pm EST: This article was updated with comment from an OpenAI investor.

Updated 11-17-2023, 5:30 pm EST: This article was updated with additional comment from Microsoft.

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