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Sam Altman says being fired was a ‘blessing in disguise’, despite ‘painful cost’ | Technology News

OpenAI witnessed a tumultuous time last month after Sam Altman was fired and went into an exile of sorts for nearly five days. Now that Altman has been reinstated, the high-stakes drama has come to an end. However, the company hailed as the pioneer of AI technologies was at a precarious spot during those five testing days. 

Even so, Altman seems to be viewing the entire episode in the most earnest way possible. Speaking to South African comedian and writer Trevor Noah on his podcast ‘What Now’, Altman said that the empathy he gained through the experience was a ‘blessing in disguise’. 

Altman has been named CEO of the year by Time Magazine. When Noah asked about his new title, Altman was dismissive and said, “I have had more attention this year than I would have liked to have in my entire life.” However, he said that he was happy for Taylor Swift for being the Time Person of The Year.

This is Altman’s first major interview following the 5-day stalemate at OpenAI. “The empathy I gained out of this whole experience, and my recompilation of values, for sure was a blessing in disguise…It was at a painful cost, but I’m happy to have had the experience in that sense,” the 37-year-old CEO told the host. 

During the podcast, when Noah asked Altman where he was when he got the news that the board had fired him, Altman responded saying that he was at the Formula One Grand Prix in Las Vegas. He admitted that could not watch any race during that whole weekend. “I was in my hotel room, took this call, had no idea what it was gonna be, and got fired by the board,” Altman told Noah.

Festive offer

Following the development, Altman said that his phone blew up with messages to the point that his iMessage stopped working. The CEO said that returning to the company was not on his mind, however, he wanted to continue working on Artificial General Intelligence. After the development, he flew back to California, Altman said that it felt like a dream, and was confused as it was chaotic. “It did not feel real”.

Despite the difficult times, Altman maintained a sense of optimism when it came to AI. Altman talked about the upsides of AI’s potential in combating injustice and societal biases all the while acknowledging its potential risks. Altman asserted that AI can be developed to be less biased than humans, thereby promoting economic and social justice. 

When asked if he could wave a magic wand and have AI be exactly what he hoped it would be, Altman responded by saying, “I  think we are heading into the greatest period of abundance that humanity has ever seen. And, I think the two main drivers of that are AI and energy. But there are going to be others too. But those two things – the ability to come up with any idea, the ability to make it happen and do these at mass scale where the limits to what people can have are gonna be sort of like what they can imagine and we can collectively negotiate as a society. I think this is going to be amazing.”

In the conversation, Altman also acknowledged that absolute safety in AI is not achievable yet, similar to other technologies such as pharma and airplanes. However, his primary concerns are not minor issues, but the existential threats of AI similar to the perils of nuclear weapons that could lead to potential extinction of mankind. Based on his interaction with Noah, the central theme here is balancing AI’s advantages and working on its potential risks. 

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