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OpenAI’s Co-Founder and Chief Scientist Ilya Sutskever Is Leaving the Company

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OpenAI Chief Scientist and co-founder Ilya Sutskever is leaving the artificial intelligence company, a departure that ends months of speculation in Silicon Valley about the future of a top AI researcher who played a key role in the brief ouster of Sam Altman last year.

Sutskever will be replaced by Research Director Jakub Pachocki, OpenAI said on its blog Tuesday. 

In a post on X, Sutskever called trajectory of OpenAI “miraculous” and said that he was confident the company will build AI that is “both safe and beneficial” under its current leadership. 

The exit removes an executive and renowed researcher who has played a pivotal role in the company since its earliest days, helping guide discussions over the safety of AI technology and at times differing with Altman over strategy. When OpenAI was founded in 2015, he served as its research director after being recruited to join the company by Elon Musk. At that point, Sutskever was already well known in the field for his work on neural networks at the University of Toronto and his work at the Google Brain lab. Sutskever even officiated the wedding of President Greg Brockman at the OpenAI offices.

Sutskever clashed with Altman over how rapidly to develop AI, a technology prominent scientists have warned could harm humanity if allowed to grow without built-in constraints, for instance on misinformation. Jan Leike, another OpenAI veteran who co-led the so-called superalignment team with Sutskever, also resigned. Leike’s responsibilities included exploring ways to limit the potential harm of AI.

Last year, Sutskever was one of several OpenAI board members who moved to fire Chief Executive Officer Altman, a decision that touched off a whirlwind five days at the company: Brockman quit in protest. Investors revolted. And within days, nearly all of OpenAI’s roughly 770 employees signed a letter threatening to quit unless Altman was reinstated.

Adding to the chaos, Sutskever said he regretted his participation in Altman’s ouster. Soon after, the CEO was reinstated. 

After Altman returned to the company in late November, he said in a blog post that Sutskever wouldn’t go back to his former post as a board member, but that the company was “discussing how he can continue his work at OpenAI.”

In the subsequent months, Sutskever largely disappeared from public view, sparking speculation about his continued role at the company. Sutskever’s post on X Tuesday was the first time he shared anything on the social network since reposting a message from OpenAI in December.

Asked about Sutskever at a press conference in March, Altman said he loved him, and that he believed Sutskever loved OpenAI, adding: “I hope we work together for the rest of our careers.”

In a post on X on Tuesday, Altman wrote, “Ilya is easily one of the greatest minds of our generation, a guiding light of our field, and a dear friend.”

On X, Sutskever posted that he is working on an as-yet-unnamed project that is “very personally meaningful” for him.

The company’s new chief scientist, Pachocki has worked at OpenAI since 2017. Pachocki led the development of the company’s GPT-4 AI model, OpenAI said.

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