Technological miracle Sam Altman freely admits that artificial intelligence will take people’s jobs, but he certainly did not expect that it would be one of the first to go.
A superintelligent computer could not have predicted the chaos that has engulfed Silicon Valley in the past few days after Altman was fired from the world’s most advanced artificial intelligence company and later acquired by Microsoft.
On Friday, the entrepreneur was ousted as CEO of OpenAI, a nonprofit venture best known for ChatGPT – a popular program that lets you write essays and even computer code – after the board said he wasn’t “sincere enough” about it.
Investors and many OpenAI employees were furious over the firing of the 38-year-old Altman, and software giant Microsoft, by far the company’s largest investor, announced on Sunday evening that it had hired him to lead a new internal AI team.
Yesterday, Altman’s supporters turned their ire on the board that ousted him.
Technology wunderkind Sam Altman (pictured) freely admits that artificial intelligence will take people’s jobs, but he certainly didn’t expect it to be one of the first to go
A superintelligent computer couldn’t have predicted the chaos that has engulfed Silicon Valley in the past few days after Altman was fired from his job at the world’s most advanced artificial intelligence company – and then captured by Microsoft (file image)
More than 500 of OpenAI’s 700 employees signed an open letter threatening to leave unless the board resigns and reinstates Altman as CEO and Greg Brockman, who was also forced out, as president.
It is now claimed that some senior colleagues were concerned that Altman was moving too quickly to commercialize OpenAI’s breakthroughs.
He said he looks forward to beating rivals in developing “artificial general intelligence,” a computer capable of performing any intellectual task a human can perform, which some scientists say poses an existential risk to our species.
Altman – who is worth an estimated $500 million (£400 million) – co-founded OpenAI with Elon Musk in 2015 as a research organization (rather than a full-fledged company) that aims to “advance digital intelligence… for the benefit of humanity”.
Along with some artificial intelligence developers, Musk – Tesla’s electric car pioneer and the world’s richest man – has raised fears that the technology could trigger a global cataclysm when superintelligent machines take control of, or even destroy, humans.
Musk left OpenAI after a falling out with Altman – who claims he is fully aware of the dangers of artificial intelligence – in 2018.
Musk recently complained that OpenAI had become a “maximum profit company effectively controlled by Microsoft,” which was not “good karma.” OpenAI is currently valued at almost £69 billion.
Insiders say some OpenAI executives felt the same as Musk, most notably Ilya Sutskever, the venture’s co-founder and chief scientist, who played a key role in bringing down Altman.
But the confusion was deepened yesterday by Sutskever, who said he “deeply regrets” his involvement in the board’s decision.
While Silicon Valley battles over whether artificial intelligence is primarily a multi-billion-dollar commercial opportunity or an extremely dangerous technology that must be constantly re-examined, who is the human at the center of the digital storm?
Altman is in many ways a classic Silicon Valley geek – only supercharged. Slim and boyish in appearance, he is an extremely bright and self-confident workaholic who is notoriously impatient with those he considers not as intelligent as himself.
More than 500 of OpenAI’s 700 employees have signed an open letter threatening to quit unless the board resigns and reinstates Altman as CEO and Greg Brockman, who was also forced out, as president (file photo)
Altman (pictured) is in many ways a classic Silicon Valley geek – only supercharged. Slim and boyish in appearance, he is an extremely bright and self-confident workaholic who is notoriously impatient with those he considers not as intelligent as himself
As a child growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, he was able to program and disassemble a Mac computer by the age of eight.
He claims to want to save the planet and lists curing cancer, achieving nuclear fusion, and supersonic aircraft as his personal priorities.
“I think his goal is to build the whole future,” says a former colleague. It is widely believed – although he denies it – that, like many of those running Silicon Valley, he is somewhere on the autism spectrum. Man, seen as the public face of the effort to protect humanity from machines, admits that he is not human.
“I have no patience for things that don’t interest me: parties, most people,” he said in 2016.
He is also a “preparer for the Day of Judgment” and admits that superintelligent computers are the potential cause of the collapse of global civilization that he fears.
I have weapons, gold and potassium iodide [used to treat radiation injuries]antibiotics, batteries, water, Israeli Defense Forces gas masks and a large piece of land in Big Sur [in California] I can fly.
At age 16, he told his parents he was gay and later publicly announced the news at his private school after a Christian group boycotted a meeting on sexuality.
Earlier this year, Altman teamed up with Oliver Mulherin, an Australian software engineer. They live in San Francisco.
Despite all the preparations for Judgment Day, Altman is optimistic about artificial intelligence, predicting that it will “solve some of our most pressing problems, truly raise living standards, and find much better applications of human will and creativity.”
Many people in Silicon Valley believe that this is the person to do it, but they were equally impressed by another Sam – cryptocurrency guru Sam Bankman-Fried.
While no one is suggesting that Altman is a criminal, Bankman-Fried faces decades in prison after being convicted of a massive fraud.