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OpenAI Staff Warned Board of Dangerous AI Discovery Before Altman Was Fired

Could it be the reason behind the CEO's ouster?

Image credit: Ascannio, Shutterstock

A week ago, OpenAI got caught up in drama surrounding its leadership when its board of directors suddenly fired the CEO, Sam Altman. Soon after nearly the entirety of the staff threatened to quit, Altman came back to the company bringing updates to the board's members. 

One of the reasons for Altman's ouster was his being "not consistently candid in his communications with the board," according to the old board. We don't know if it's true or not, but now, new information about OpenAI's business has surfaced, which might be connected to what has happened.

As reported by Reuters, before Altman was let go, OpenAI researchers wrote a letter to the board warning it of a dangerous AI discovery that could threaten humanity. According to the outlet's sources, this was one of the reasons behind Altman's firing along with concerns over commercializing advances before understanding the consequences.

It's said that OpenAI acknowledged a project called Q* (pronounced Q-Star) in an internal message to the workers. Some of them think this could be a breakthrough in the search for artificial general intelligence (AGI), "autonomous systems that surpass humans in most economically valuable tasks." If realized, AGI could learn to do any intellectual task that humans can, which is what makes researchers so worried about it.

"Given vast computing resources, the new model was able to solve certain mathematical problems, the person said on condition of anonymity because the individual was not authorized to speak on behalf of the company. Though only performing math on the level of grade-school students, acing such tests made researchers very optimistic about Q*’s future success, the source said."

Researchers also flagged work by an "AI scientist" team, which was exploring how to improve AI models' reasoning and eventually perform scientific work. 

Interestingly, Altman mentioned the possibility of major advances at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit last week:

"Four times now in the history of OpenAI, the most recent time was just in the last couple weeks, I've gotten to be in the room, when we sort of push the veil of ignorance back and the frontier of discovery forward, and getting to do that is the professional honor of a lifetime," he said.

Soon after, Altman was fired and the whole mess began. Could it really be the reason for his ouster? Are we on the verge of a powerful AI discovery that can threaten humanity?

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