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OpenAI Turmoil Was Not About Safety: Microsoft President Clarifies Misconceptions in the AI Landscape

Dismissal, Reinstatement, and Future Collaborations Amidst Commercial Competition and Technological Advancements

NEWS  AI  December 1, 2023  Reading time: 2 Minute(s)

mdo Max (RS editor)


Microsoft Vice President Brad Smith dispelled rumors surrounding the upheaval at OpenAI, asserting that the ousting of Sam Altman, OpenAI's former chief, did not stem from concerns over AI safety.

Contrary to speculations that a "dangerous" discovery led to Altman's dismissal, Smith emphasized that the core issue was not related to safety concerns. Microsoft, the primary investor in OpenAI, had even extended an offer to hire Altman before he was eventually reinstated at the company last week.

The incident shed light on the role of commercial competition in shaping AI development and the swift pace of technological advancement. Elon Musk, owner of X, and other tech figures had suggested that Altman's firing and subsequent reappointment were indicative of a disagreement over AI safety.

However, Smith refuted these claims, stating:

"I don't think that is the case at all. I think there obviously was a divergence between the board and others. What's more important is there's a new board in place, and the partnership between OpenAI and Microsoft is as strong as ever."

Altman, a co-founder of OpenAI and a key figure in the ChatGPT project, secured a substantial funding boost of $13 billion from Microsoft, propelling the company's growth. His initial dismissal prompted Microsoft to offer him a role leading a new advanced AI research team, but a company-wide revolt, with over 700 employees signing a letter threatening to move to Microsoft unless Altman was reinstated, led to his return.

The board cited Altman's lack of consistent communication and loss of confidence in his leadership as the reasons for his dismissal. However, no detailed explanation has been provided.

Addressing the broader landscape, Smith unveiled a £2.5 billion investment in advanced data centers during an event in London, aimed at driving AI usage in the UK. He emphasized the potential for the UK to benefit from innovation and competition among major players like Microsoft and Google.

Dismissing fears of imminent AI dominance over humans, Smith stated:

"There's absolutely no probability that you're going to see this so-called artificial general intelligence where computers are more powerful than people come in the next 12 months. It's going to take years, if not many decades."
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