OpenAI CEO Sam Altman Contemplates Company’s Name

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OpenAI CEO Sam Altman Contemplates Company’s Name

| Updated: March 19, 2024 15:05

In a recent podcast interview with Lex Fridman, Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI, reflected on the company’s journey and its name. Altman, who co-founded OpenAI with Elon Musk and others in 2015, suggested that a different name might have been more fitting given the company’s evolution.

OpenAI was initially conceived as a research lab with a broad vision for artificial intelligence (AI) applications. Over time, the company expanded its focus to include API services and chatbot development. In 2019, OpenAI transitioned from a nonprofit model, aimed at leveraging AI for the benefit of humanity, to a “capped-profit” structure. This shift marked a significant turning point for the company.

The change drew attention, particularly from co-founder Elon Musk, who voiced concerns about the company’s departure from its original nonprofit mission and its shift towards proprietary technologies. Musk’s discontent led to a lawsuit against OpenAI, in which he alleged breaches of the company’s founding principles and advocated for a name change to “ClosedAI”.

Despite Musk’s criticisms and lawsuit, Altman defended OpenAI’s evolution. He characterized it as a natural response to the evolving landscape of AI technology and the need for increased capital. Altman suggested that the company’s evolution was driven by practical considerations and the need to adapt to changing circumstances, rather than a departure from its core mission.

Reflecting on the company’s journey, Altman acknowledged the challenges inherent in pioneering initiatives and suggested that hindsight might have led to different decisions. He humorously mused about the possibility of choosing a different name for the company if given the chance to revisit the past.

Altman also emphasized that while OpenAI might not be completely open-source, they still make their technology available to the public for free or at low prices. He believes this approach is crucial for achieving the company’s goals.

“So if we can keep putting free or low cost or free and low-cost powerful AI tools out in the world, I think that’s a huge deal for how we fulfill the mission,” Altman told Fridman.

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