The Saga at OpenAI: Lessons for Policymakers

Audio of this conversation is available via your favorite podcast service. “Chaos” is a word that appeared in multiple news reports to characterize recent events surrounding the firing and subsequent rehiring of OpenAI founder and CEO Sam Altman. It remains unclear exactly why the board of the company chose to dismiss Altman, beyond that he was allegedly “not consistently candid” in his communications. A couple of days in, it seemed like OpenAI, founded in 2015, might really be on the rocks. At one point it appeared possible that nearly all of its employees might quit and join Microsoft, forming a new AI research team under Altman’s leadership.  But while at first glance it may appear that such ‘chaos’ would be bad for the $80 billion startup, I suspect it will only benefit the company in the long run. The intrigue around Altman’s ouster has bolstered multiple narratives that are useful to OpenAI, particularly the idea that it may have been connected to concerns about rapid technical advances without adequate safety mechanisms. The salience of this narrative, and all of the conjecture around a possible recent breakthrough, is a marketing boost for the company, reinforcing the perception of its products as both powerful and fearsome.  But what should policymakers take away from these events? And while it seems like the drama at OpenAI is over for now, could it spark back up again soon? To answer these questions and more, I spoke to Karen Hao, a journalist that is both a…The Saga at OpenAI: Lessons for Policymakers