The Tech Company Brief by Hackernoon: Sam Altman and OpenAI’s Vision

December 8, 2023


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To think that it could have ended any other way.

Sam Altman is back at OpenAI, along with co founder Greg Brockman, capping what was perhaps one of the most tumultuous periods in the generative AI company’s history (Yes, even more so than the public split with Elon Musk, who co-founded the venture.)

But this whole saga wasn’t without its sh*ts and giggles.

To begin, it took less than a week for Altman to return as CEO of what is perhaps one of the most important (and likely also the most successful) AI companies in the world. The board that fired him is no longer there (except for one member), replaced by an individual who has ties to Washington (Larry Summers), and another who’s a big name in the world of business technology (Bret Taylor).

This means Ilya Sutskever, Helen Toner, and Tasha McCauley had to step down, largely due to pressure from both outside and within. Sutskever’s exit was particularly unceremonious, since he had a change of heart after firing Altman, joining the chorus in demanding Altman’s return following the CEO’s exit. Unfortunately for Sutskever, that wasn’t enough for him to remain with the company since he had to leave after Altman’s return.

Sutskever wasn’t the only loser in this circus show (as one analyst put it), which had its fair share of winners and losers.

Altman and Brockman definitely came out on top, and so did the countless employees that backed the OpenAI founders by threatening to quit the company if the board did not resign. Microsoft and its CEO Satya Nadella played the referee in this entire situation, swooping in to hire Altman and Brockman soon after their split from OpenAI in what media described as an opportunity for Microsoft to become even more entrenched in the AI scene.

Had Altman stayed at Microsoft, he would have led an entire AI team of his own for research and product development purposes. But, as we all know, Altman is now safely back at OpenAI, and everyone now knows who Microsoft would back were such a situation to arise again.

But regardless of what you think of the entire situation, one thing has become abundantly clear: OpenAI cannot, will not, shall not continue without Altman. OpenAI is quite literally Sam Altman, and Sam Altman is quite literally OpenAI, and this whole saga has only strengthened the idea that this symbiotic relationship cannot survive without the other.

Which brings us to the biggest loser in the entire situation: humanity as a whole.

While it is unclear as to why the OpenAI board fired Altman in the first place, whispers on the internet give us a glimpse into what may have caused that decision and it all has to do with the contradiction between OpenAI’s stated mission (create AI that benefits humanity) and its actions (to beat everyone to artificial general intelligence, even if it comes at the cost of enhanced risk to humanity as a whole).

Altman is said to fall in the latter group, where he wants to beat everyone else, even if it means giving rise to an AI that could either wipe humanity or subject it to its whims (not to be naysayers, but enough people in the academia space have raised concerns with AI to take the risk of such a thing with more seriousness).

And with Altman back at the helm, humanity could see an AI with its guardrails off, if only because OpenAI’s most prolific founder is in a race to beat everyone else to artificial general intelligence, so much so, that a letter supposedly from former OpenAI employees warned the board of a breakthrough that could hurt humanity as a whole (Altman was fired a little after the letter was sent, apparently).

Does AGI exist? Are we already there? We don’t know for sure, but OpenAI has thrown its weight behind giving rise to the technology and is now accelerating progress under Altman’s leadership.

Time will tell what happens next.

OpenAI backer Microsoft ranked #7 on HackerNoon’s tech company rankings this week.

Microsoft Rank on HackerNoon's Tech Company Rankings

Microsoft Rank on HackerNoon’s Tech Company Rankings

Meta Too Wants to Develop an AI Without Guardrails 🤖

It looks like OpenAI’s Sam Altman is not the only one racing to get to artificial general intelligence as soon as possible.

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg seems to be making moves that are eerily similar to the ones at Microsoft, and by extension, OpenAI.

A new report indicates that Meta has disbanded its Responsible AI team, which would have been responsible for, ya know.. Making sure the company doesn’t end up giving rise to a completely bonkers AI that is devoid of human values.

Earlier this year, Microsoft too let go of its entire ethics and society team which was tasked with ensuring the company’s responsible AI principles are reflected in the design of the products that it ships. “Our job was to show them and to create rules in areas where there were none,” as one former Microsoft employee put it.

All of this to say: big tech seems to be steaming ahead to be the first to develop artificial general intelligence, and that might mean doing so without teaching it what it’s like to be.. Human.

Meta ranked #37 on HackerNoon’s Tech Company Rankings.

Meta rank on HackerNoon's Tech Company Rankings

Meta rank on HackerNoon’s Tech Company Rankings

Amazon’s iRobot Acquisition? Not So Fast 🇪🇺

Amazon‘s proposed $1.7 billion acquisition of iRobot hit a snag recently after the European Commission warned that such a purchase could limit competition in the market for robot vacuum cleaners.

Among the objections raised by the European Commission was the fact that Amazon may be incentivized to push out iRobot’s rivals from its platform once the acquisition goes through (not a stretch btw.) or limit their access to the ecommerce website so consumers can’t find alternatives.

While the objection is by no means an indication the deal will fall through, it is still a preliminary step in the regulatory review process of the acquisition and could complicate Amazon’s efforts if the bloc does not approve it.

Amazon has now time to address the objections, while the European Commission plans to give a final decision on the purchase by Feb. 14.

Amazon ranked #8 on HackerNoon’s Tech Company Rankings.

Amazon rank on HackerNoon's Tech Company Rankings

Amazon rank on HackerNoon’s Tech Company Rankings

In Other News.. 📰

  • Apple shares the most popular podcasts of 2023 — via Apple
  • AWS is experimenting with a chip that can solve key quantum computing problems — via The Verge.
  • Google, Symphony unveil AI JV to help banks manage voice calls compliance risk — via Reuters.
  • Apple partner Foxconn to invest $1.5 billion in India — via TechCrunch.
  • Elon Musk wants to be a world leader. His own behavior is holding him back — via CNN.
  • The technology behind ChatGPT is evolving insanely fast — via Axios.
  • Binance founder Changpeng Zhao ordered by judge to stay in U.S. ahead of prison sentencing — via CNBC.

And that’s a wrap! Don’t forget to share this newsletter with your family and friends!

See y’all next week. PEACE! ☮️

— Sheharyar Khan, Editor, Business Tech @ HackerNoon

This article was originally published by Sheharyar Khan on Hackernoon.


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