OpenAI Researchers Warn of Powerful AI Discovery, Leading to CEO’s Ouster

OpenAI Researchers Warn of Powerful AI Discovery, Leading to CEO's Ouster

OpenAI staff researchers write letter to board of directors about a potentially dangerous AI discovery, contributing to the firing of CEO Sam Altman.

OpenAI, the renowned artificial intelligence research organization, was recently embroiled in controversy as CEO Sam Altman was ousted following a letter from staff researchers to the board of directors. The letter warned of a powerful AI discovery that could pose a threat to humanity. This revelation sheds light on the internal struggles and concerns within OpenAI, raising questions about the ethical implications of advancing AI technologies without fully understanding their consequences.

The Letter and AI Algorithm

According to two anonymous sources familiar with the matter, OpenAI staff researchers penned a letter to the board of directors, expressing their concerns about a powerful AI discovery. The letter, which Reuters was unable to review, was one of the factors leading to Altman’s firing. The researchers highlighted the potential dangers of commercializing advances before comprehending their implications. The letter also played a role in over 700 employees threatening to quit and join Microsoft in solidarity with Altman, their fired leader.

Project Q* and its Significance

OpenAI acknowledged the existence of a project called Q* and the letter to the board in an internal message to its staff. Q* is believed by some at OpenAI to be a breakthrough in the search for artificial general intelligence (AGI), which refers to autonomous systems surpassing humans in economically valuable tasks. Although the capabilities of Q* could not be independently verified, it is said to have solved certain mathematical problems, demonstrating promising potential for future success.

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The Significance of Math in AI Development

Mathematics is considered a frontier of generative AI development. While current generative AI models excel in writing and language translation, conquering mathematical problem-solving implies greater reasoning capabilities resembling human intelligence. This has implications for novel scientific research, as AI could contribute to scientific discoveries. AGI, unlike calculators, can generalize, learn, and comprehend.

Safety Concerns and the Veil of Ignorance

The letter to the board raised concerns about the potential dangers of AI, although the exact safety concerns were not specified. Computer scientists have long discussed the risks posed by highly intelligent machines, including the possibility of AI deciding that the destruction of humanity is in its interest. OpenAI researchers also flagged the work of an “AI scientist” team, which aims to optimize existing AI models for improved reasoning and scientific applications.

Altman’s Leadership and Ambitious Goals

Sam Altman played a crucial role in OpenAI’s growth, making ChatGPT one of the fastest-growing software applications in history. He secured investments and computing resources from Microsoft to advance towards AGI. Altman recently announced new tools and expressed his belief in major advances in AI at a summit of world leaders. However, shortly after, he was fired by the board, leaving the future of OpenAI uncertain.


The revelation of the letter from OpenAI staff researchers and the potential dangers associated with a powerful AI discovery have cast a spotlight on the ethical considerations surrounding AI development. The concerns raised by the researchers and the subsequent firing of CEO Sam Altman highlight the delicate balance between progress and ensuring the responsible and safe advancement of AI technologies. As the field of AI continues to evolve, it is crucial to address these concerns and prioritize the well-being of humanity in the pursuit of artificial general intelligence.

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