Sam Altman’s latest interview: exposure returns to the inside story, responding to the Q* model for the first time

One year ago today, OpenAI released ChatGPT, triggering the Cambrian explosion of artificial intelligence.

The sense of acceleration of technological evolution is getting stronger and stronger, and "witnessing history" has become a common thing. Along with excitement, anxiety, worry, reflection… everyone seems to be eager to turn a new page in history.

After a series of recent turmoils, OpenAI also officially announced Altman's return today, and Microsoft, the company's largest investor, will also join the board of directors as a non-voting observer.

At the same time, Altman also accepted an exclusive interview with The Verge , talking about some insider information before the return, as well as the Q* model that was exposed earlier – the AI ​​technology that is considered to be a threat to humanity.

But in this interview, Altman repeatedly refused to answer the biggest question: Why on earth was he fired?

When the OpenAI board asked Sam Altman to return one day after firing him, Altman was initially resistant, hurt, and angry. He told reporters on the phone:

It took me a few minutes to come out of it, get over myself and my emotions, and think, 'Yeah, of course I want to do this.' 'Obviously, I love this company and have been fully invested in it for the past four and a half years, but it's actually taken me much longer. We've made tremendous progress on a mission that I care deeply about: safe and beneficial artificial intelligence.

The following is The Verge’s complete interview with OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and CTO Mira Murati, slightly edited by Ai Faner:

Q: Sam, I want to start by talking about the obvious, which is we still don’t know why you were fired in the first place. Why do you think you were fired?

Altman: The board will conduct an independent review here. I very much welcome this. I don’t have much to say right now, but I look forward to learning more.

Q: Why do you think the board said they lost trust in you?

Altman: That's a better answer for them.

Q: You just said on X, "It's clear that there were real misunderstandings between you and the board members." What were those misunderstandings?

Altman: I'm not ready to talk about this yet. I think it's important to let this review process take place. I'm happy to talk about anything forward-looking. I think there will be a time when I would be more than happy to talk about what happened here, but now is not the time.

Q: Can you tell me why you can't talk about it now?

Altman: I just want the process to happen without intervening.

Q: You mentioned Ilya Sutskever (OpenAI’s chief scientist) in your letter to employees. Can you tell me why he changed his mind and decided to side with the others?

Mira Murati: We don't know. You have to ask Ilya.

Q: Sam, looking back, what was the main motivation that brought you back?

Altman: That's really interesting. Some board members called me Saturday morning and asked if I would talk about this issue. My first reaction was a little bit defensive, like, "Oh my god, I'm hurt, I'm angry, I think this is bad."

And then I started thinking almost immediately, obviously, I love this company so much and have been so dedicated to it for the last four and a half years, but it actually took me a lot longer. We've made tremendous progress on a mission that I care deeply about: safe and beneficial artificial intelligence. But it's also the people here and all the partners who have great expectations for us, and Mira and the leadership team and all the people here who do an incredible job. It took me a few minutes to come out of it, get over myself and my emotions, and think, "Yeah, of course I want to do this."

Q: So the board asked you to come back?

Altman: Yes.

Q: Were you hesitant at first?

Altman: Not for long. What happened to me after that made me feel a lot of things.

Q: It's clear that employees support you. How much of an impact do you think this has?

Altman: We definitely come out of this process as a stronger, more united, more focused and committed team. I think we had a lot of belief and focus before and I think we have even more now. So that's my silver lining in all of this.

Throughout the entire process, we did not lose a single employee or customer. Not only did they keep the product running in the face of unmanageable growth, they also rolled out new features. Research progress continues.

Q: Do you want to return to the board of directors?

Altman: Even though this sounds like a PR pitch, it's not my focus area right now. I have a bunch of very difficult, important, and urgent work to do. I want to do my job, but it's not like (being on) the board or not. Now I don't take the time to think about this.

Q: What does “improving our governance structure” mean? Will the nonprofit holding company structure change?

Altman: That would be more appropriate for a board member to answer, but not right now. Honestly, they need time and we will support them to think about it. Clearly there is something wrong with our governance structure. It will take a while to find the best way to solve this problem. I totally get why people want an answer right now. But I also think it’s completely unreasonable to expect immediate answers.

Q: Why do you think this is unreasonable? I think people are seeing a lot of ambiguity about what's going on. Looks like a disagreement, not inappropriate behavior or anything like that.

Altman: Oh, just because designing a really good governance structure, especially for such an impactful technology, is not a question of the week. It will take real time to think, debate, get outside perspectives, stress test. This takes a while.

Q: Will the events that just happened change OpenAI’s approach to security?

Murati: No. This has nothing to do with safety.

Q: Regarding the report about your recent Q* model breakthrough, what is that about?

Altman: I have no particular comment on that unfortunate leak. But actually we have been emphasizing before, just like what we said two weeks ago, what we said a year ago, and what we said even earlier – we expect that the progress of this technology will continue to be rapid, and we also expect to continue to work hard to make it better. Know how to make it safe and beneficial. That's why we used to get up every day. This is why we will get up every day in the future. I think we've been very consistent on that.

Without commenting on any specific thing or project, we believe progress is research. There's always a chance you'll encounter obstacles, but we expect progress will continue to be significant. We want to engage with the world and figure out how to make this technology as good as possible.

Q: Last question. I'm sure you're still thinking about all of this. I know this is all new. What did you learn from this whole incident?

I don't think I have a concise and powerful answer yet. Obviously learned a lot, but I'm still trying to make sense of it all. I mean, there's definitely a lot to say, but I don't think I'm ready yet… I can only give a long and rambling answer right now.

Altman: Well, we'll talk about that later.

After hanging up the phone, Altman called back a few minutes later:

I learned that the company could really function without me, which was a really good thing. I'm happy to be back, don't get me wrong. But I came back without any pressure of, "Oh, I have to do this, or the company needs me or whatever."

I thought I felt good because I either picked great leaders or coached them well. It feels good that the company will be fine without me and that the team is ready and improving.

Love style makes the future within reach.

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