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AI Safety Advocate: Artificial Intelligence Prophet Lied To Board, Attempted To Remove Me From Board For Questioning Him

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A former OpenAI board member has revealed the reasons behind the controversial decision to fire CEO Sam Altman last November. Speaking in an interview on The TED AI Show podcast, AI researcher Helen Toner accused Altman of lying to and obstructing OpenAI’s board, retaliating against those who criticized him, and fostering a “toxic atmosphere,” Mashable reported.

“The [OpenAI] board is a nonprofit board that was set up explicitly for the purpose of making sure that the company’s public good mission was primary — coming first over profits, investor interests, and other things,” Toner told The TED AI Show host Bilawal Sidhu. “But for years, Sam had made it really difficult for the board to actually do that job by withholding information, misrepresenting things that were happening at the company, and in some cases outright lying to the board.”

OpenAI fired Altman on Nov. 17 last year. According to Toner, the decision involved weeks of intense discussion. The secrecy surrounding the decision was also intentional. “It was very clear to all of us that as soon as Sam had any inkling that we might do something against him, he would pull out all the stops to undermine the board, to prevent us from even getting to the point of being able to fire him,” Toner said. “So we were very careful, very deliberate about who we told, which was essentially almost no one in advance other than our legal team.”

Following Altman’s dismissal, an employee revolt demanding his reinstatement led to the resignation of three board members, ultimately allowing Altman to return to OpenAI as CEO with a new board in place, Fox Business reported.

Furthermore, Toner disclosed that Altman failed to inform the board about his ownership of the OpenAI startup fund, despite frequently claiming to be an independent board member with no financial interest in the company.

“On multiple occasions, he gave us inaccurate information about the small number of formal safety processes that the company did have in place,” she added.

“After years of this kind of behavior, all four of us who fired him came to the conclusion that we just couldn’t believe things that Sam was telling us,” Toner stated. “And that’s a completely unworkable place to be as a board – especially a board that is supposed to be providing independent oversight over the company.”

Sam Altman, Reuters screenshot

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