Elon Musk expressed concern about the abrupt departure and swift return of Sam Altman, co-founder of OpenAI, during an interview at the DealBook Summit. Musk, who helped found OpenAI, shared his mixed feelings about Altman, referencing “The Lord of the Rings” and the corrupting influence of power.
“I have mixed feelings about Sam. The ring of power can corrupt,” Musk said, evoking “The Lord of the Rings.”
Musk said he wanted to know why the OpenAI cofounder and chief scientist Ilya Sutskever “felt so strongly as to fight Sam,” adding: “That sounds like a serious thing. I don’t think it was trivial. And I’m quite concerned that there’s some dangerous element of AI that they’ve discovered.”
Although Musk lacked insider information on the situation, he raised questions about the conflict between Altman and OpenAI’s chief scientist Ilya Sutskever, suggesting there might be a serious concern related to artificial intelligence (AI).
The circumstances surrounding Altman’s initial ousting remain unclear, with reports indicating that OpenAI employees were informed it was due to a statement Altman made to the board regarding personnel. However, employees seemed skeptical of the provided reasons. Altman was reinstated five days later after the majority of OpenAI employees threatened to quit if he was not brought back.
Musk expressed concern about the potential discovery of a dangerous element in AI, questioning why Sutskever felt strongly enough to fight against Altman’s removal. Sutskever was initially one of the board members who voted to oust Altman but later appeared to backtrack on the decision. Musk defended Sutskever, stating that he believed Sutskever had a strong moral compass and emphasizing the need for transparency about the reasons behind Altman’s removal.
“He really sweats it over questions of what is right,” the billionaire told Sorkin. “And if Ilya felt strongly enough to want to fire Sam. Well, I think the world should know what was that reason.”
While Musk left OpenAI’s board in 2018 and founded a competitor named X.ai, he continued to express caution about the dangers of AI technology. Musk warned about the potential risks to the public, emphasizing the importance of responsible development and deployment of AI.
The interview shed light on the internal dynamics and tensions within OpenAI, raising questions about the undisclosed reasons behind Altman’s brief removal from the organization.