Exclusive: OpenAI researchers warned board about AI breakthrough before CEO outster – sources – Portal

Nov 22 (Portal) – Ahead of OpenAI CEO Sam Altman’s four days in exile, several senior researchers sent the board a letter warning of a powerful artificial intelligence discovery that they said could threaten humanity, two said People familiar with the matter told Portal.

The previously unreported letter and AI algorithm were a catalyst for the board ousting Altman, the poster boy of generative AI, the two sources said. Before his triumphant return late Tuesday, more than 700 employees had threatened to quit in solidarity with their sacked leader and join backer Microsoft (MSFT.O).

The sources cited the letter as one factor in a lengthy list of board complaints that led to Altman’s firing. Portal was not able to verify a copy of the letter. The researchers who wrote the letter did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

OpenAI declined to comment.

According to one of the sources, longtime executive Mira Murati mentioned the project, called Q*, to employees on Wednesday and said a letter had been sent to the board before this weekend’s events.

After the story was published, an OpenAI spokeswoman 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 has made progress on Q* (pronounced Q-Star), which some internally believe could be a breakthrough in the startup’s quest for superintelligence, also known as artificial general intelligence (AGI), one said of respondents told Portal. OpenAI defines AGI as AI systems that are smarter than humans.

Given the huge computing resources, the new model is capable of solving certain mathematical problems, the person said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on behalf of the company. Although only math performance was at elementary school students’ level, passing such tests made researchers very optimistic about Q*’s future success, the source said.

Portal could not independently verify Q*’s claimed capabilities.

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

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

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Anna Tong is a correspondent for Portal based in San Francisco, where she covers the technology industry. She joined Portal in 2023 after working at the San Francisco Standard as a data editor. Tong previously worked as a product manager at technology startups and at Google, where she worked in user insights and helped run a call center. Tong graduated from Harvard University. Contact:4152373211

Jeffrey Dastin is a correspondent for Portal based in San Francisco, where he covers the technology industry and artificial intelligence. He joined Portal in 2014 and originally wrote about airlines and travel for the New York bureau. Dastin graduated from Yale University with a degree in history. He was part of a team that investigated Amazon.com’s lobbying efforts around the world, for which he won a SOPA Award in 2022.

Krystal covers venture capital and startups for Portal. She covers Silicon Valley and beyond through the lens of money and characters, with a focus on growth-stage startups, technology investing and AI. She previously covered mergers and acquisitions for Portal and published stories on Trump’s SPAC and Elon Musk’s Twitter funding. She previously covered Amazon for Yahoo Finance, and her investigation into the company’s retail practices was cited by lawmakers in Congress. Krystal began her journalism career writing about technology and politics in China. She has a master’s degree from New York University and enjoys a scoop of matcha ice cream as much as a scoop at work.