In a surprising turn of events, OpenAI’s board abruptly fired co-founder and CEO Sam Altman on Friday. Following a backlash on social media, the board appeared to be reconsidering its decision over the weekend, only to confirm that Altman was out early Monday morning. In turn, Altman will be leading a new AI research lab at MicrosoftMSFT +2.4%.
Altman has become the public face of the AI movement, thanks to ChatGPT’s massive success. His removal means chaos in the short term for OpenAI and others in the industry. The real story however may be the OpenAI board’s concerns about “AI safety,” which in turn stem from the outsized influence of Effective Altruism in Silicon Valley. The safety of AI likely created a key rivet between the board and CEO Altman.
EA is a philosophical framework rooted in utilitarianism, which aims to maximize the net good in the world. In theory, there’s little to dislike about EA, with its rationalist approach to philanthropy that emphasizes evidence over emotion. The problem is the movement’s leaders are all too prone to ethical lapses, confirming the very worst stereotypes of the movement’s critics.
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