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### The Resignation of Sam Altman: Unveiling the AI Extinction Risk Debate

Industry leaders warn of major risk while others balk.

Ilya Sutskever, a board member at OpenAI, was involved in crafting a significant yet less recognized warning about the dangers linked to artificial intelligence before gaining attention for his role in the departure of CEO Sam Altman.

Expressing apprehensions about the inability of engineers to prevent AI from behaving unpredictably, Sutskever stressed in a blog post the potential consequences of the emergence of “intelligent AI,” including the “disempowerment of humanity or even human extinction.” This reiterated OpenAI’s fundamental principle advising against the utilization of AI if it poses a threat to humanity.

Despite Sutskever’s plea for vigilance, it coincided with a period of rapid growth for OpenAI. The creation of GPT-4, a widely utilized conversational tool with an alleged user base of 100 million, was accelerated by Microsoft’s substantial $10 billion investment earlier this year.

The New York Times reported that Altman’s departure was partly driven by disagreements with Sutskever concerning conflicting priorities within the company, particularly regarding the increasing awareness of AI risks and the explosive growth in the adoption and commercialization of innovative technologies.

On June 5, 2023, Ilya Sutskever, a distinguished computer scientist with ties to Russia, Israel, and Canada, as well as a co-founder and Chief Scientist at OpenAI, is set to deliver a speech at Tel Aviv University.

The specific reasons behind Altman’s exit remain undisclosed. Following an assessment by the board of directors at OpenAI, conducted on a Friday, the decision was made to part ways with Mr. Altman.

The board’s evaluation highlighted issues regarding Altman’s lack of transparency in communications with the board, which impeded the board’s ability to fulfill its duties. OpenAI clarified that this decision resulted from a democratic review process.

A leaked letter obtained by ABC News revealed that post his departure, Altman swiftly secured a position at Microsoft, receiving support from nearly all of OpenAI’s staff. The letter called for the resignation of Microsoft’s board of directors and the reinstatement of Altman.

Stuart Russell, a notable AI researcher from the University of California, Berkeley, and co-author of a study on the societal implications of advanced technologies, raised concerns about the mounting pressure on OpenAI due to its pursuit of artificial general intelligence (AGI), capable of simulating and potentially surpassing human intelligence.

Russell, in an interview with ABC News, highlighted the uncertainty surrounding Altman’s departure, stating, “Funding a multi-billion-dollar enterprise for AGI raises inherent concerns about ensuring the ethical development of AI technologies.”

As AI applications permeate various sectors from manufacturing to entertainment, the debate on the existential risks posed by AI grows, sparking discussions on the pace of technological advancement and the necessity for regulatory frameworks.

Several industry experts, including Altman and Demis Hassabis, CEO of Google DeepMind, jointly signed an open letter from the Center for AI Safety, warning against the potential catastrophic consequences of AI comparable to pandemics or nuclear conflicts.

Altman advocated for hastened AI deployment as a method to proactively test and mitigate risks linked with advanced technologies.

However, Yann LeCun, a prominent AI scientist at Meta, dismissed skepticism regarding the alleged dangers of AI invasion as “preposterously absurd” in an article for the MIT Technology Review.

Anjana Susarla, a professor at Michigan State University specializing in responsible AI implementation, highlighted the cautions issued by industry leaders concerning AI risks amidst a fiercely competitive landscape where rapid product development necessitates substantial investments, placing pressure on companies to leverage AI for commercial gains.

The enduring partnership between Microsoft and OpenAI, initiated with a $1 billion investment by Microsoft four years ago, was further solidified by Microsoft’s recent multi-billion dollar funding injection.

Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, is scheduled to speak at the CEO conference for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation in San Francisco on November 15, 2023.

Established as a non-profit organization in 2015, OpenAI was projected to exceed $1 billion in revenue through the sale of its AI products within a year, as reported by The Information.

Altman’s departure, which rallied OpenAI employees behind him, seems to have eased some tensions within the organization, particularly with Sutskever.

In a statement posted on X, Sutskever, a seasoned AI researcher and co-founder of OpenAI, expressed regret for his involvement in recent events, emphasizing his dedication to the company’s mission and pledging to contribute to its recovery.

The appointment of Emmett Shear, former CEO of Twitch, as the new CEO of OpenAI following Altman’s resignation signals a potential shift in the company’s approach to safety and governance.

Shear, referring to AI as inherently risky, estimated the likelihood of a major AI-related catastrophe to range between 5% and 50% during an interview on “The Logan Bartlett Show” in July, labeling it the “probability of doom.”

In a statement on X, Shear advocated for a more cautious approach to AI advancement, suggesting a slowdown in the current growth trajectory to effectively mitigate potential risks.

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Last modified: February 22, 2024
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