OpenAI chief scientist who helped lead coup against CEO Sam Altman quits

The co-founder and chief scientist of ChatGPT maker OpenAI is leaving the company months after helping lead a failed coup against CEO Sam Altman — only to later voice regret over the flopped insurrection.

OpenAI said Ilya Sutskever, 38, is departing one day after the artificial-intelligence juggernaut unveiled a new AI model called GPT-4o, capable of realistic voice conversation and able to interact across texts and images.

Ilya Sutskever, 38, is departing OpenAI after nearly a decade at the company. AFP via Getty Images

“OpenAI would not be what it is without him,” Altman wrote of Sutskever in a blog post.

The 38-year-old tech prodigy, a former University of Toronto grad student who stood out for his research into AI neural networks, was among a group including Altman and Elon Musk who founded OpenAI in 2015.

Another top researcher at OpenAI, Jan Leike, has also left the firm. Jakub Pachocki will be the company’s new chief scientist, OpenAI announced.

“After almost a decade, I have made the decision to leave OpenAI,” Sutskever said in a post on X. 

Sutskever said he is working on a new project “that is very personally meaningful to me about which I will share details in due time.”

Sutskever played a key role in Altman’s dramatic firing and rehiring in November last year. He joined forces with other board members including Adam D’Angelo, Helen Toner and Tasha McCauley to remove Altman, who was also on the board but did not have enough support to overturn the decision.

Days later, he reversed course, joining more than 500 employees who signed onto a letter demanding Altman’s return and expressing regret for his “participation in the board’s actions.” 

Greg Brockman, OpenAI’s co-founder and president, was opposed to Altman’s firing and resigned in protest.

Sutskever was one of the OpenAI board members who led the coup against CEO Sam Altman last fall. REUTERS

Days later, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who has directed his firm to invest billions in joint partnerships with OpenAI, said that Altman and Brockman were welcome to join the company to head a new advanced AI research team.

Altman and Brockman eventually returned to the company, which then revamped its board.

After Altman returned, Sutskever was removed from the board and his position at the company became unclear.

OpenAI has turned into a multi-billion dollar company thanks to its breakthrough AI product ChatGPT. AP

Sutskever has long been a prominent researcher in the AI field.

Before founding OpenAI, he worked as a researcher at Google Brain, and was a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford, according to his personal website.

He started his career working with Geoffrey Hinton, one of the so-called “godfathers of AI” who quit Google last year, warning that the fast-developing technology poses risks to humanity.

Shortly after launching in late 2022, ChatGPT was called the fastest application ever to reach 100 million monthly active users.

However, worldwide traffic to ChatGPT’s website has been on a roller-coaster ride in the past year and is only now returning to its May 2023 peak, according to analytics firm Similarweb.

With Post Wires

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