23rd November 2023 – (San Francisco) Sam Altman, the renowned face of generative AI, briefly found himself dethroned from his position as CEO of OpenAI, only to be reinstated just four days later. This dramatic episode was rooted in a disconcerting warning issued by staff researchers about a novel AI discovery that could potentially pose a threat to humanity.
According to insiders, a confidential letter penned by the researchers, which discussed the alarming capabilities of a new artificial intelligence algorithm known as Q*, was a significant factor leading up to Altman’s temporary removal. This letter, along with other undisclosed grievances, led the board of directors to vote for Altman’s dismissal. While the specifics of the letter remain undisclosed, staff researchers have yet to comment on the matter.
Q* is understood to be a major stride in OpenAI’s pursuit of superintelligence, or artificial general intelligence (AGI). The company, known for creating the ChatGPT, defines AGI as AI systems that are more advanced than humans in their cognitive abilities. Using vast computing resources, Q* has demonstrated its potential through solving mathematical problems, albeit at a level similar to primary school students. This achievement, however, has sparked significant optimism about Q*’s future capabilities among researchers.
Generative AI’s proficiency in mathematics is seen as a frontier in AI development. While current generative AI shows expertise in writing and language translation, the ability to solve mathematical problems—where there is always a single correct answer—suggests an advancement towards AI mimicking human reasoning. This breakthrough could have far-reaching implications, especially in scientific research.
In the warning letter to the board, researchers flagged the potential danger of AI’s increasing prowess. Theoretical concerns have long been raised about the potential threat of superintelligent machines, which, in the worst-case scenario, might decide that the annihilation of humanity is in their best interests.
Despite these brewing concerns, Altman remained at the forefront of propelling ChatGPT to become one of the fastest-growing software applications in history. His efforts drew the necessary investment and computing resources from Microsoft, bringing the company closer to achieving superintelligence. In a recent gathering of global leaders, Altman expressed his belief that AGI was within reach, a belief that was swiftly followed by his abrupt dismissal from the board.
Just days after his removal, however, Altman was reinstated as OpenAI’s CEO amidst a wave of support from his allies, employees, and investors. His return was accompanied by a significant restructuring of the company’s board, which saw several members who had opposed Altman being replaced. Adam D’Angelo, the CEO of Quora, remained the only constant on the board. The company also saw the return of Greg Brockman, OpenAI’s president who had resigned in solidarity with Altman.
OpenAI’s revamped board now includes Bret Taylor, an early Facebook officer and former co-CEO of Salesforce; Lawrence Summers, the former Treasury Secretary; and Mr. D’Angelo. Bret Taylor has been appointed as the board chairman.
Microsoft, OpenAI’s biggest investor, supported these changes, with CEO Satya Nadella praising the new board as a “first essential step on a path to more stable, well-informed, and effective governance.”
Despite the tumultuous events, the company’s employees remained supportive of Altman. Over 700 employees threatened to leave OpenAI and join Microsoft if Altman was not reinstated, putting the future of the start-up in jeopardy.
In a remarkable twist, Microsoft announced that Altman, Brockman and others would be joining the company to start a new advanced artificial intelligence lab, just hours after the board’s initial refusal to reinstate Altman. This decision marked a significant turning point in OpenAI’s history, as it not only highlighted the employees’ faith in Altman’s leadership but also underscored the importance of the emerging AI advancements being explored within the company.
As the dust settles, OpenAI, now valued at over $80 billion, finds itself at the heart of the rapidly evolving field of artificial intelligence. Balancing the pursuit of AGI with the potential threats it could pose to humanity will be a formidable challenge. As Altman resumes his leadership of OpenAI, all eyes will be on how the company navigates these uncharted waters.