OpenAI researchers warned board of AI breakthrough ahead of CEO Sam Altman’s ouster: sources

OpenAI researchers warned board of AI breakthrough ahead of CEO Sam Altman’s ouster: sources

Ahead of OpenAI CEO Sam Altman’s four days in exile, several staff researchers sent the board of directors a letter warning of a powerful artificial intelligence discovery that they said could threaten humanity, two people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The previously unreported letter and AI algorithm was a catalyst that caused the board to oust Altman, the poster child of generative AI, the two sources said.

Before his triumphant return late Tuesday, more than 700 employees had threatened to quit and join backer Microsoft in solidarity with their fired leader.

The sources cited the letter as one factor among a longer list of grievances by the board that led to Altman’s firing.

Reuters was unable to review a copy of the letter.

The researchers who wrote the letter did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

OpenAI declined to comment.


Sam Altman
The sources cited the letter as one factor among a longer list of grievances by the board that led to Sam Altman’s firing.
AFP via Getty Images

According to one of the sources, long-time executive Mira Murati mentioned the project, called Q*, to employees on Wednesday and said that a letter was sent to the board prior to this weekend’s events.

After the story was published, an OpenAI spokesperson said Murati told employees what the media reports were about but she did not comment on the accuracy of the information.

The maker of ChatGPT had made progress on Q* (pronounced Q-Star), which some internally believe could be a breakthrough in the startup’s search for superintelligence, also known as artificial general intelligence (AGI), one of the people told Reuters. OpenAI defines AGI as AI systems that are smarter than humans.


OpenAI logo
The maker of ChatGPT had made progress on Q*, which some internally believe could be a breakthrough in the startup’s search for superintelligence.
AP

Given vast computing resources, the new model was able to solve certain mathematical problems, the person said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on behalf of the company.

Though only performing math on the level of grade-school students, acing such tests made researchers very optimistic about Q*’s future success, the source said.

Reuters could not independently verify the capabilities of Q* claimed by the researchers.

(This story has been corrected to state that Sam Altman’s firing occurred after a letter was sent to the board, not caused by the letter, in the headline and paragraph 5)

Anna Tong and Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco and Krystal Hu in New York; Editing by Kenneth Li and Lisa Shumaker

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