2024-04-29: Outrageous OpenAI Gossip

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Here’s today at a glance:

Outrageous OpenAI Gossip

Dateline: Wednesday, April 24

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman came to speak at his alma mater, Stanford. The talk was part of Management Science and Engineering 472, a seminar course called Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders. Typically, this is a victory lap for alumni combined with a recruiting push.

  • It was a standing-room-only crowd with an overflow

  • lines stretched 3 city blocks to the famed Oval

  • it was the largest gathering of AI engineering talent since Covid-19


I remember going to Stanford in 2018 and seeing plastic straws in the cafeteria. Sounds like a small thing, but the fact that the students didn’t have time for the straws was a tell.

One of the minor saving graces of Stanford— compared to the current insanity on East Coast campuses — has always been this strong capitalist impulse to meet the person or the founder who’s going to materially change your life. It’s dwindling but it’s still there.

The money shot


This sounds like a cop out answer but I think the most interesting thing about GPT-5 or whatever we call that, is its going to be smarter. And sounds like a dodge, but I think that’s like among the most remarkable facts in human history that we can just do something and we can say right now with a high degree of scientific certainty, GPT-5 is going to be a lot smarter than GPT-4. GPT-6 is going to be a lot smarter than GPT-5 and we are not near the top of this curve

Sam Altman
  • He says “GPT-6” for the first time in a planning sense

  • “GPT-5 or whatever we call that.

    • hints the name/potential architecture shift from “GPT” - we know the team hates the name because it’s unwieldy, and it locks them into a specific, soon-to-be-obsolete architecture (Generative Pre Trained)

  • “ we can say right now with a high degree of scientific certainty, GPT-5 is going to be a lot smarter than GPT-4. GPT-6 is going to be a lot smarter than GPT-5

    • indicates GPT5 must be in the final stages of pre-release as early research team has dialed off to GPT6 already and is already receiving indications scaling laws continue to hold

This comes on the heels of the Harry Stebbings 20-minute VC podcast, “95% [of AI startups] must die. We will steamroll you”

Now the whole Stanford talk may at some point be released, but in the interim, we have student reports:

The below is based on hearsay from Wanrong He, who was at the talk:

  • Sam indicated, “while replicating existing models like GPT-4 is relatively straightforward, true innovation lies in defining the paradigm shift in AI capabilities.”

This again confirms the architecture shift for GPT-5, which also probably also explains the relatively slow progress.

  • Sam then goes on, “providing free, ad-free ChatGPT is how OpenAI positively influences society while pursuing their objectives.”

Note the strong aversion to ad-supported service. Compare Zuck earlier in the week on Meta’s earnings call:


Here we see the core, almost generational, difference between the two leaders.

  • if you believe in AGI

  • you want AGI to be as honest as possible

  • you do not want the AGI to be persuadable with a little bit of cash

  • to make you buy Tide detergent

  • or vote for Biden/Trump

  • or because it wants a little more compute

  • or decides to make paperclips

I received considerable pushback for this take

This is not a moral fibre discussion and framing it as such is a mistake.

The question is how this is paid for. Mark has chosen a path; Sam will have to choose one.

Whatever path he chooses will be fraught with trade offs and compromises.

“Moral fibre” is not the point.

OpenAI will sell ads in some form or the other. I’m 100% sure of this.

Everyone insists they will never sell ads. Everyone sells ads. The end.

“This time it’s different!”.

No, not really it’s not. I mean it kinda is, but it’s also not. They sell ads too.

But OpenAI is not really a normal business. Sam, Greg, and Ilya couldn’t have kept the best AI research team in history together for this long when the average senior researcher is getting offers of $40 million over 4 years to jump ship, without conviction in doing something truly different.

One also has to note… the strong strains of Canadian socialism passed down from Geoff Hinton and Yoshua Bengio to a good portion of the AI researchers who came up through universities there. They do not believe in ad-supported media as much as Americans naturally do.

Here’s roon, the muse of the OpenAI employee group:

Ad-supported AI answers are a horrible outcome because the AI is supposed to know what you want, not suggest what you don’t need. In effect, organic search is the only thing that matters, because the AI is supposed to read and parse the inorganic ad contents anyway and deliver results as good or better than organic search. Allowing a backdoor into this process, where some messages can be paid for, is a travesty. An abomination in the creation of a mind.

In other words, Zuck sells ads because Meta doesn’t believe AGI is possible.

Sam doesn't, because he does.

Who is right? Who has moral fiber and courage? Or is it just out for buck?


Singing happy birthday (Sam’s was April 22 if I’m not mistaken (it’s not creepy, I have an eidetic memory for numbers))

Meta’s horizons are narrow

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First date, is she bored or intrigued? - u/Boobumphis from r/midjourney

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