The Sam Altman effect: ‘His superpower is getting people onside’

Sam Altman

Sam Altman, the leader of OpenAI went on stage in San Francisco recently to declare that ChatGPT, the start-up's innovation that began a new epoch of artificial intelligence, has one hundred million users every week.

The speaker shared that his company is planning to decrease the cost of their software by fifty percent and introduce an artificial intelligence app store. These actions are intended to encourage more people to utilize this groundbreaking technology. During the speech, the speaker would pause after each sentence to allow the audience's applause to fade away.

We could observe his capacity to motivate others a few weeks later when the board of OpenAI suddenly fired him. This unexpected act resulted in an uprising within the company, where most employees demanded that Altman be reinstated right away.

Leading figures in the technology industry, ranging from Eric Schmidt to Vinod Khosla, have come out in support of Altman. Satya Nadella, who is the CEO of Microsoft, provided Altman with an opportunity to take charge of an AI research division at the company. Nadella has also promised to give Altman all the necessary resources required for him to excel in this new role.

The future of the multibillion-dollar generative AI industry rests on the shoulders of the 38-year-old entrepreneur who has been instrumental in its creation. At this point, his destiny is uncertain and could go either way.

According to an individual who was involved in the discussions between Altman and the OpenAI board, his ability to bring people over to his side, control the way stories are told, and manipulate situations to his advantage is like a superpower. This talent makes it nearly impossible for anyone to manage or supervise him effectively.

Over the last couple of years, Altman has become increasingly popular thanks to OpenAI's groundbreaking work with generative AI. This type of technology has the ability to generate images, text, and code that closely resemble those produced by humans in terms of quality.

OpenAI introduced ChatGPT in November of the previous year, which is an advanced chatbot that can answer complex questions. This led to renowned companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Salesforce, as well as several tech startups, producing their own chatbots and AI-based software products. The majority of these products were constructed using OpenAI's fundamental AI technology due to ChatGPT's success.

Altman has successfully taken OpenAI from being a non-profit research organization to generating a reported $1 billion in annual revenue within just eight years. The company's diverse clientele includes Morgan Stanley, Estée Lauder, Carlyle, and PwC.

Altman's triumphs have established him as the unofficial spokesperson for the AI field, even though he doesn't have a scientific education. Recently, he traveled to different nations and met with influential individuals from start-ups, global governments, and regulatory bodies. Notably, Altman was a keynote speaker at the APEC Asia-Pacific regional conference in San Francisco shortly before being dismissed from his position.

Schmidt, who used to be the head honcho of Google, shared his thoughts on X, stating that he holds Sam Altman in very high regard. According to Schmidt, Altman was able to establish a company from scratch that's worth a whopping $90 billion and has had a significant impact on the world as a whole. Schmidt also mentioned that he and countless others will greatly benefit from whatever Altman has planned for the future; he's confident that it will be nothing short of remarkable.

Altman is a representation of Silicon Valley and he left Stanford University before completing his degree. Although his first start-up called Loopt, which was a social media platform based on location, wasn't successful; it caught the eye of Paul Graham, founder of Y Combinator. When he was only 28 years old, Graham chose him to lead the technology incubator.

Y Combinator achieved triumphs with the likes of Airbnb and Stripe, which gave Altman a front-row view of some of the most popular investment crazes. This also encouraged him to support ambitious and innovative ventures.

Earlier this year, Alexandr Wang from Scale AI, which received initial support from Y Combinator, stated that only a small number of individuals were investing in these technologies. He highlighted that the great investor was prepared to take significant risks and bet on long-term plans. This trait is something that made him an exceptional investor.

People who have collaborated with Altman agree that his remarkable trait is his relentless drive and capacity to rally others.

People have called him an individual who has a strong desire to win, and a person who possesses great intelligence, with one person saying that no one is better than him when it comes to gaining power.

Altman has declared his objective for AI as developing a potent universal technology that has the ability to propel human progress safely.

In a recent interview with the Financial Times, he expressed his belief that attempting to force his company into the mold of a outdated tech company is illogical. He stated that the product his company offers is intelligence as a service, specifically a highly advanced form of intelligence. This intelligence is capable of tackling complex issues such as finding a cure for a particular disease.

AI was not the only thing Altman invested in. He has invested a massive sum of $375 million into Helion, a startup working on nuclear fusion. He's also been making progress towards securing $100 million in funding for his Worldcoin crypto firm, which specializes in iris-scanning technology.

Before being fired, Altman was trying to raise up to $100 billion from investors in the Middle East and Masayoshi Son, the founder of SoftBank, to set up a new microchip development company. This company would aim to challenge Nvidia and TSMC by creating advanced AI models. A source with insider information stated that Altman's attempts to raise funds had raised concerns among the board of directors.

Altman had a grand plan of developing affordable and robust machine intelligence, and he managed to achieve it through various endeavors. He believes that multiple companies are joining forces to achieve the same goal. One of the examples is OpenAI-Microsoft, but there are others currently in progress.

Over the last couple of years, Altman has faced difficulties in figuring out how to harmonize the outstanding profit potential of AI with OpenAI's initial objective of ensuring that this innovation benefits everyone.

When it was first founded, Altman created the group as a non-profit organization, but later changed its structure to attract a $1 billion investment from Microsoft. The group's updated approach limited the amount of profits that outside investors could earn from a new commercial division, and instead ensured that any additional profits would be directed towards a fund dedicated to not-for-profit causes.

A source who is familiar with how the OpenAI board functions mentioned that it operates in a peculiar way. The majority of its day-to-day activities are managed by a for-profit company. However, its operations are overseen by a non-profit organization, which is tasked with ensuring that the goal of making Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) beneficial for mankind is achieved.

Altman made it clear that he did not take any personal ownership in OpenAI, which will ensure that he remains committed to the company's mission and objectives. Another individual referred to this decision as a "superb move," as it demonstrated Altman's dedication to the cause, despite being financially secure on his own.

Altman has shown himself to be a highly respected and influential figure, capable of rallying top researchers from around the globe to pursue his vision. According to OpenAI staff, there was a fervent devotion to Altman that bordered on cult-like, as evidenced by a letter to the company's board that was signed by over 500 of the 770 employees on Monday. In the letter, they threatened to quit unless the board stepped down and Altman was reinstated.

Despite the board's worries about how Altman leads, with claims that he is not always truthful when communicating with them, well-known investors still view him as the one who holds the key to the triumph of the corporation.

A person from the company stated that their main goal was to bring Sam back. Khosla, who was an early supporter, praised Altman as a CEO that only comes around once in a very long time.

Jessica Livingston, one of the co-founders of Y Combinator, had recently shared on platform X that she had become a founding donor for OpenAI back in 2015, not because she was particularly intrigued with the concept of AI, but because she had faith in Sam, presumably someone involved with the project.

Extra information has been provided by Richard Waters in this segment of the blog.

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