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The Sam Altman Effect: His Superpower is Getting People Onside

Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, shares her favorite stories in this weekly newsletter. Sam Altman's firing at OpenAI causes uproar.

Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.

OpenAI chief Sam Altman recently announced that ChatGPT, a revolutionary artificial intelligence technology, now boasts 100 million weekly users. This achievement comes just a year after the start-up's inception, marking a new era in AI.

In a surprising move, Altman also revealed that the company would halve the price of its software and launch an AI app store, aiming to make this groundbreaking technology more accessible to the masses. The announcement was met with resounding applause, highlighting Altman's ability to inspire and captivate an audience.

However, this triumph was short-lived, as Altman was abruptly ousted from OpenAI's board, sparking an internal revolt among the majority of staff who demanded his immediate reinstatement. Despite this setback, tech luminaries such as Eric Schmidt and Vinod Khosla have rallied to Altman's defense, recognizing his pivotal role in the establishment of the multibillion-dollar generative AI industry.

Altman's rise to prominence over the past two years has been nothing short of meteoric. Under his leadership, OpenAI has transformed from a non-profit research outfit into a company generating a reported $1 billion in annual revenue. This success has made Altman the de facto ambassador for the AI industry, despite his lack of a scientific background.

Altman's journey began in Silicon Valley, where he gained recognition for his first start-up, Loopt, a location-based social media service. However, it was his role as the head of Y Combinator that solidified his reputation as a visionary leader with a penchant for backing grand, visionary projects.

A dropout from Stanford University, Altman's ferocious ambition and ability to corral support have been described as his standout qualities. His unwavering commitment to creating powerful, general technology that can be safely used to advance humanity has earned him widespread admiration and support from industry leaders and investors alike.

Despite his recent setbacks, Altman's vision for AI remains unwavering. His pursuit of building cheap, powerful machine intelligence and making it accessible at scale has led to ambitious ventures, including investments in nuclear fusion start-up Helion and an iris-scanning crypto start-up called Worldcoin.

However, Altman's efforts to raise significant funding for a new microchip development company have raised concerns among the board, ultimately leading to his ousting. Nevertheless, Altman's leadership and influence within the AI industry are undeniable, as evidenced by the overwhelming support he has received from colleagues, employees, and prominent investors.

Regardless of the board's concerns, Altman's revered leadership and ability to inspire a cult-like following within OpenAI have solidified his position as a once-in-a-generation CEO and a driving force behind the company's success. His unwavering commitment to ensuring that AI benefits humanity at large has garnered widespread admiration and support, making him a central figure in the future of AI technology.

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