Scientist Who Said Neural Networks May Already Be Conscious Leaves OpenAI After

ilya sutskever leaves openai

Thus ends a protracted saga in OpenAI history.

French Exit

Ilya Sutskever, OpenAI’s chief scientist and one of its original cofounders, is finally leaving the company after moving to oust CEO Sam Altman in November.

In a blog post announcing the departure, Altman said Sutskever is “easily one of the greatest minds of our generation” and that he would be replaced as chief scientist by company research director Jakub Pachocki.

“Ilya and OpenAI are going to part ways,” the CEO’s statement to employees reads. “This is very sad to me.”

Back in November, Sutskever led the charge among OpenAI’s board in its ultimately failed effort to oust Altman over still-unspecified concerns about safety and direction. As the New York Times notes in its reporting on his exit, the chief scientist remained at the firm in the interim, but has not been back to work since that debacle.

Strange Claims

Beyond the Thanksgiving drama, Sutskever had made something of a name for himself in the AI world for outspoken musings about the field.

In February 2022, the better part of a year before ChatGPT shook the world with its release, he tweeted that “it may be that today’s large neural networks are slightly conscious.” Despite being nearly-universally clowned upon for it, he never expounded upon that belief, nor has he deleted the tweet.

More recently, Sutskever’s antics within the firm, which included burning effigies and encouraging coworkers to “feel the AGI,” were on display in an Atlantic exposé about the inner workings of OpenAI.

In Altman’s statement to employees about the new departure, which took place just a day after the company released its new talking and “seeing” version of ChatGPT, the CEO said Sutskever would be working on something that is “personally meaningful,” but declined to provide further details about what that could be.

“I am forever grateful for what he did here and committed to finishing the mission we started together,” Altman wrote of Sutskever. “I am happy that for so long I got to be close to such genuinely remarkable genius, and someone so focused on getting to the best future for humanity.”

More on OpenAI exits: OpenAI Safety Worker Quit Due to Losing Confidence Company “Would Behave Responsibly Around the Time of AGI”

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