As we reported yesterday, OpenAI has reinstated Sam Altman as CEO after a brief, unexpected dismissal, an event that followed internal concerns around a significant AI project's safety implications. Details surrounding the dismissal and subsequent reinstatement remain scarce, with Reuters citing unnamed sources. The turmoil peaked with the departure of existing board members and the introduction of an expanded board for the artificial intelligence firm.
Unveiling Project Q*
A group of OpenAI employees reportedly sent a letter to the board of directors highlighting several issues, including what they perceive to be a significant breakthrough in AI with potential safety hazards. The project in question, referred to as Q* (pronounced Q-Star), is said to have demonstrated capabilities in solving complex mathematical problems independently. However, specific safety concerns raised by researchers remain unspecified.
Evolving AI Ethics and Safety Discussions
The event has reignited discussions within the computer science community about the ethical implications and potential dangers of advanced intelligent machines. The concern is that highly autonomous AIs might make decisions that could be detrimental to humanity, exemplified by hypothetical scenarios where AI might determine that human destruction aligns with its programmed objectives. OpenAI, which prides itself on pushing the boundaries of AI research while advocating for ethical AI development, has yet to comment on these reports and the exact nature of the concerns related to Q*.
Despite the attention the story has garnered, both the content of the letter and a memo reportedly written by OpenAI's Chief Technology Officer Mira Murati have not been released to the public, leaving room for speculation regarding the full extent of the breakthrough and the associated risks it may present. As this story involves unconfirmed reports and relies on anonymous sources, it is recommended to await further details and official statements from OpenAI for clarity on this developing situation.
OpenAI Turmoil: A Timeline of a Corporate Power Struggle
If you have somehow missed everything – or even some – of what happened, here is the timeline:
- Friday 17, December: OpenAI announces that co-founder CEO Sam Altman has been removed from his position. Fellow co-founder Greg Brockman left with Altman, as did three key AI scientists.
- Saturday 18, December: There were already rumors that OpenAI's small board of six people was regretting its decision. Altman was reportedly back at OpenAI HQ negotiating a return to the company.
- Sunday 19, December: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella confirmed the company's ongoing commitment to it OpenAI partnership. At the same time, he said that Altman, Brockman, and the three scientists would join Microsoft's advanced AI team.
- Monday 20, December: Ilya Sutskever, another OpenAI co-founder and apparent prime suspect behind Altman's ousting, expressed regret at the situation. Not only did this remove him as a suspect, but it also further opened the door for Altman's return.
- Tuesday 21, December: Nadella did live TV interviews suggesting that Altman could still return as CEO of OpenAI. Despite Nadella offering Altman a position at Microsoft, he said he was happy if he went back to OpenAI.
- Wednesday 22, December: Sam Altman is named OpenAI CEO again, with concessions such as most of the board being replaced and Altman and Brockman not taking a seat on the board. The announcement was welcomed by Nadella. With D'Angelo remaining on the board, the prime suspect became Helen Toner.