As I write this, Sam Altman may or may not be CEO of OpenAI, the non-profit artificial intelligence factory responsible for developing what is arguably the world’s most popular AI chatbot, ChatGPT, and AI image generation platform DALL-E. For this brief moment, Altman is like the Schrödinger’s cat of CEOs.
OpenAI is responsible for changing our perception of AI and its place in our society. It moved AI from the fringes and plumbing of popular technology to center stage.
While AI has existed in many of the products we use today, most people, prior to late 2022, had never engaged directly with an AI. ChatGPT and its GPT-3 underpinning turned consumer-grade AI into reality and ChatGPT into an overnight sensation.
Things moved so quickly that we went from fascination to excitement to utility to integration and finally deep concern within a space of 6 months.
Still, even as we wondered if all this AI was good for us and society, development barreled forward with OpenAI leading the charge; especially as it partnered up with benefactor Microsoft to help bring AI to even more consumers through Bing and then the world’s most widely used platform, Windows.
AI consumes first job
The sudden and startling ouster of OpenAI cofounder and CEO Sam Altman late Friday may seem like a story about business and boardroom shenanigans, and in some ways it is. Still, questions about why Altman was removed, and his lieutenant, OpenAI President Greg Brockman left in his wake, resonate well behind the future of OpenAI as a business and shine a spotlight on the rough road ahead for future AI development, especially as it heads into Artificial General Intelligence (AGI).
AGI differs from AI in that it takes the latter to a more human-like level. It’s AI that resembles the way people and not computers think.
OpenAI has made no secreted of the fact that AGI is the destination and in Altman’s most recent public appearance where he introduced GPTs, a store to buy them, and new Turbo versions of GPT-4, Altman made it clear that OpenAI was making some significant leaps in this area.
Are you ready for AGI?
It may be telling that Altman was then soon shown the door. Did Altman show the board something that concerned them and raised fears of an onrushing singularity? Was he unable to convince them that AGI could be developed and delayed safely? After all, Altman also made it clear that our very definition of AGI is a moving target and what we have in ChatGPT now would’ve, a decade ago, passed for AGI.
What should you care? Altman’s stewardship of OpenAI, which may or may not continue in the future (the board is apparently trying to bring him back), will certainly define the next five years of AI and, especially the AGI revolution to come.
AGIs will transform how we interact with chatbots, how we solve difficult human problems, and how we regulate AI for the long term. Altman, who sat before Congress earlier this year and called for regulation, does not come across as some sort of AI cowboy. Still, something spooked the board.
Considering the ever-accelerating pace of AI development, OpenAI may have come too close to releasing AGI for the board’s comfort. Perhaps the board asked Altman to pull back. Or maybe Altman didn’t reveal the true state of the development team’s AGI efforts (the board did, in its release not the matter, indicate some form of dishonesty on Altman’s part), and when it found out, it panicked.
Whatever the case, Altman’s place or lack of one at OpenAI will impact your AI future.
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