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OpenAI chief scientist Ilya Sutskever leaves the company

Ilya Sutskever, OpenAI’s co-founder and chief scientist who joined three other board members in November to oust Sam Altman, the company’s chief executive, before saying he regretted the decision, quits the San Francisco AI company.

Dr. Sutskever’s departure, announced by the company in a blog post Tuesday, closes another chapter in a story that stunned Silicon Valley and raised questions about whether Mr. Altman and his company were ready to lead the technology industry into the artificial age. intelligence.

Returning to OpenAI just five days after his ouster, Mr. Altman reasserted his control and continued his march toward increasingly powerful technologies that have worried some of his critics. Dr. Sutskever remained an employee of OpenAI, but he never returned to work.

“It’s an emotional day for all of us,” Mr. Altman said in an interview. “OpenAI would not exist without him and has certainly been shaped by him.”

In a statement, Dr Sutskever said: “I have made the decision to leave OpenAI. The company’s trajectory has been nothing short of miraculous, and I am confident that OpenAI will create an AGI that is both safe and beneficial. AGI, or artificial general intelligence, is an untapped technology that can do anything the brain can do.

Dr. Sutskever, 38, added that he was starting a new project, but gave no further details.

A key OpenAI researcher, Jakub Pachocki, will replace Dr. Sutskever as chief scientist at the company, valued at more than $80 billion, according to a recent fundraising deal.

On Monday, OpenAI unveiled a new version of its ChatGPT chatbot capable of receiving and responding to voice commands, images and videos, joining tech giants like Google and Apple in a race toward a new kind of assistant digital talking.

Founded in 2015 by Mr. Altman, Elon Musk and several young researchers, including Dr. Sutskever, OpenAI has long been at the forefront of AI research. Dr. Sutskever’s involvement gave the company immediate credibility. As a graduate student at the University of Toronto, he participated in a breakthrough in AI involving neural networks – the technology that has advanced the field over the past decade.

In late 2022, OpenAI wowed the world with the release of ChatGPT, an online chatbot capable of answering questions, writing poetry, generating computer code, and chatting much like people. The tech industry has rapidly adopted what is known as generative artificial intelligence – technologies that can generate text, images and other media on their own.

The result of more than a decade of research at companies like OpenAI and Google, generative AI is poised to reshape everything from email programs to Internet search engines and digital assistants.

Mr. Altman has become a leading voice for the transition to generative AI, testifying before Congress and meeting with lawmakers, regulators and investors around the world. In November, OpenAI’s board unexpectedly ousted him, saying he could no longer be trusted with the company’s plan to eventually create artificial general intelligence.

OpenAI’s board of directors consisted of six people: three founders and three independent members. Dr. Sutskever voted with the three outsiders to remove Mr. Altman as chief executive and chairman of the board, saying — without providing details — that Mr. Altman had not been “always candid in his communications”.

Greg Brockman, president of OpenAI and another co-founder, resigned from the company in protest. Dr. Pachocki too.

Days later, as hundreds of OpenAI employees threatened to resign, Dr Sutskever said he regretted his decision to remove Mr Altman and had effectively resigned from the board, leaving three independent members opposed to Mr. Altman.

Mr. Altman returned as chief executive after he and the board agreed to replace two members with Bret Taylor, a former Salesforce executive, and Lawrence Summers, a former U.S. Treasury secretary. Mr. Altman regained his board seat several months later, as the board expanded to seven people.

Last year, Dr. Sutskever helped create a super alignment team within OpenAI to explore ways to ensure that future versions of the technology would not cause harm. Like others in the field, he grew increasingly concerned that AI could become dangerous and perhaps even destroy humanity.

Jan Leike, who led the Super Alignment team alongside Dr. Sutskever, also resigned from OpenAI. His role will be taken by John Schulman, another co-founder of the company.

In the weeks before Mr. Altman’s ouster, Dr. Pachocki, who helped oversee the creation of GPT-4, the technology at the heart of ChatGPT, was promoted to director of research at the company . After serving in a lower position than Dr. Sutskever, he was elevated to a position alongside him, two people familiar with the moves said.

After Mr. Altman’s reinstatement, Dr. Sutskever did not return to work. Mr. Altman indicated that he hoped to negotiate his return, but this was ultimately not possible.

Dr. Pachocki has effectively served as chief scientist since November. After Dr. Sutskever recruited him and others to join OpenAI, he was among the key researchers on several of the company’s most important projects, including GPT-4.

“I am grateful to Ilya,” Dr. Pachocki said in an interview. “We have different and, in many ways, complementary leadership styles. »

Mr. Altman said he spoke with Dr. Sutskever on Tuesday. “He has pushed us – and will continue to push us – to, as he says, feel AGI,” Mr. Altman said.

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