Sam Altman and Project Q*: An OpenAI Mystery

November 28, 2023
Sam Altman - Project Q*

November 17th, 2023: In a surprise move that shocked the world, Sam Altman, CEO of artificial intelligence company OpenAI, was suddenly fired by the company’s board of directors. Sam Altman was the face of the company during its astronomic rise to fame.

The board announced it had removed Altman and concluded that “he was not consistently candid in his communications with the board”. The board “no longer had confidence in his ability to continue leading OpenAI”. Mira Murati, CTO of the company, was declared interim CEO immediately.

A popular uprising, Altman restored.

Immediately, Altman’s removal led to massive discontent with the board’s decision. Investors pushed for his restoration, and senior colleagues Jakub Pachocki, Aleksander Madry, and Szymon Sidor quit. Jason Kwon, the company’s chief strategy officer, told staff that efforts were being made to restore Altman and others to their positions.

Chaos ensued as the company’s CEO was replaced again, and most of the company’s employees signed a letter to the board threatening to quit. The letter demanded Altman’s restoration and the current board stepping down.

A deal was finally agreed upon after discussions at the San Francisco headquarters.

Sam Altman’s return was announced on Tuesday. OpenAI will investigate Altman’s removal.

The ongoing mystery of Project Q*

The seemingly politically motivated chaos at OpenAI headquarters spared rumours over what could have potentially happened.

Immediately after Altman’s restoration, Emmet Shear, who was briefly interim CEO, tweeted that Sam Altman’s removal did not come about as a result of disagreements on safety.

However, Reuters reported on Thursday that preceding Altman’s exit, staff researchers wrote a letter to the board complaining about a humanity-threatening development. This has raised questions about whether Sam Altman was possibly removed for being too careless.

These sources suggested that the situation at OpenAI resulted from a new AI model, Q*. A day before Sam Altman was fired, he alluded to an advance that could “push the veil of ignorance back and the frontier of discovery forward”.

Mira Murati acknowledged the project in a message to staffers. It is believed that Q* (Q-star) could be a breakthrough in Open-AIs artificial general intelligence (AGI) goal.  In a blog post by Sam Altman himself, AGI is referred to as “AI systems that are generally smarter than humans”. He describes OpenAI’s mission to use AGI to provide a “great force multiplier for human ingenuity and creativity” whilst minimising its “serious risk of misuse and societal disruption”.

As reported by Reuters’ anonymous whistleblower, Q* was able to solve grade-school-level mathematical problems, highlighting the rapid progression of AI in recent years.

Read more about the alleged AI model.

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