June 19, 2024

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Elon Musk on Ilya Sutskever, man at center of OpenAI upheaval

2 min read

OpenAI just underwent an abrupt, dramatic leadership shakeup. A key figure at the center of the turmoil is also a big reason that Tesla CEO Elon Musk is no longer friends with Google cofounder and former CEO Larry Page. 

On Friday, OpenAI announced that cofounder and CEO Sam Altman had been fired by the board of directors, and that Mira Murati, the chief technology officer, would serve as interim CEO. The maker of the AI chatbot ChatGPT claimed that Altman was “was not consistently candid” with the board, without providing details.

It also said that another cofounder, chairman Greg Brockman, would be removed from that role while staying at the company. But Brockman then indicated that he would quit.

That meant that there was only remaining member of the core founding group behind OpenAI: Ilya Sutskever, the company’s chief scientist. A Russian-born Israeli-Canadian, Sutskever is a leading expert in deep learning, a subset of machine learning. He’s also on OpenAI’s board.

Ilya Sutskever, Russian Israeli-Canadian computer scientist and cofounder and chief scientist of OpenAI, speaks at Tel Aviv University on June 5.

JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images

“Last night, Sam got a text from Ilya asking to talk at noon Friday,” Brockman wrote on X late Friday. “Sam joined a Google Meet and the whole board, except Greg, was there. Ilya told Sam he was being fired and that the news was going out very soon.”

Musk’s tussle with Google over Sutskever

Musk has a history with both OpenAI, which he played a key role in starting, and with Sutskever, whom he persuaded to join OpenAI as a cofounder and chief scientist in 2015, rather than stay at Google. On a Nov. 9 episode of the Lex Fridman Podcast, Musk described how pivotal Sutskever was to the success of OpenAI. 

In 2015, Musk said, he worked hard to recruit Sutskever to OpenAI, which he then envisioned as open-source nonprofit that would act as a counterweight to Google’s power in…

Steve Mollman

2023-11-18 12:17:26

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