The Long Shadow of Steve Jobs Looms Over the Turmoil at OpenAI

Hundreds of OpenAI employees signed a letter Monday demanding Mr. Altman’s return. On Friday, it was one of the most important companies in Silicon Valley; on Monday morning, most of its employees were threatening to quit. Mr. Altman is the visionary founder who can save them, and OpenAI, and perhaps all mankind.

This superhero narrative is the secret engine of just about every book beloved by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. Travis Kalanick, a founder of Uber, was a devotee of Ayn Rand, whose heroes are at war with society. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, was a childhood fan of “Star Trek,” where Captain Kirk made every decision and took charge of every landing party. Peter Thiel, the venture capitalist who backed Donald J. Trump in 2016, loves “The Lord of the Rings,” an epic tale where a handful of heroes save the world. Mr. Thiel’s corporate names (Palantir, Mithril, Valar) are taken from the story.

Mr. Altman, to his credit, has endorsed a wide reading list that goes beyond books written by his friends in Silicon Valley, like Mr. Thiel. He recommended another Valley favorite, Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” science fiction series, which is once again about how a charismatic and farseeing savant and his mostly male acolytes can save everyone, in this case 25 million planets.

But the path to becoming a real-life Gandalf or Captain Picard is strewn with peril.

Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos modeled herself on Mr. Jobs. When she couldn’t get her blood-testing technology to work, she simply pretended it did. Adam Neumann promised to reinvent the office experience with WeWork. It declared bankruptcy two weeks ago, although Mr. Neumann did manage to become rich. Sam Bankman-Fried, the bright promise of cryptocurrency, will be sentenced in March for fraud. Elon Musk has not helped his reputation or his bank account by buying Twitter, now called X.

For Mr. Altman, this past weekend may have been a personal peak. For all the talk of A.I. taking jobs, he suddenly became the one essential person in all technology. A post on X by Eric Schmidt, the former chief executive of Google, captured some of the mood, and never mind that Google is in a fierce competition with OpenAI:

“Sam Altman is a hero of mine. He built a company from nothing to $90 Billion in value, and changed our collective world forever. I can’t wait to see what he does next. I, and billions of people, will benefit from his future work — it’s going to be simply incredible.”

This is Jobs-level praise. Perhaps wisely, Mr. Altman scorned all the offers he was getting to fund his next start-up. Microsoft, the biggest investor in OpenAI, announced late Sunday that he would be coming there. He’ll work for others now.


Source link

Related Posts

U.S. Leading Soft Landing for Global Economy

The world is starting 2024 on an optimistic economic note, as inflation fades globally and growth remains more resilient than many forecasters had expected. Yet one country…

Job Market Starts 2024 With a Bang

The United States produced an unexpectedly sizable batch of jobs last month, a boon for American workers that shows the labor market retains remarkable strength after three…

6 Reasons That It’s Hard to Get Your Wegovy and Other Weight-Loss Prescriptions

About 3.8 million people in the United States — four times the number two years ago — are now taking the most popular weight-loss drugs, according to…

Sean Wang Lives His ‘Fairy Tale’ at Sundance

“I feel like I’m in a fairy tale,” Sean Wang said to the sold-out crowd gathered at the Ray Theater in Park City, Utah, last month for…

Meta’s Stock Surges After Jump in Profits

Meta’s stock price soared on Friday, adding hundreds of billions of dollars to the market value of the social media giant that owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp….

He’s Lost His Marriage, His Followers and His Lamborghini

With its streamlined curves and glow-in-the-dark sound system, the silver Lamborghini Huracán Performante was the stuff of teenage fantasy: $350,000 of aerodynamic metals and lightweight upholstery, packed…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *