‘We Learned About ChatGPT on Twitter:’ Former OpenAI Board Member Reveals Another Possible Reason for Feud Between Board and Sam Altman

Helen Toner, a former Open AI board member, discussed the launch of ChatGPT on a recent podcast.

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ChatGPT is one of the most important technology products in recent years. OpenAI’s conversational chatbot marked a before and after in the world of generative artificial intelligence (GenAI). In fact, it caused a major shift in big tech companies like Google and sparked a multi-billion-dollar race to lead the AI industry.

Given this context, one might assume that the launch of this significant tool received approval from the OpenAI board. However, there’s at least one reason to believe this wasn’t the case. OpenAI CEO Sam Altman reportedly gave his team the green light to launch ChatGPT without notifying the company’s board.

A (Too) Discreet Launch

ChatGPT made its debut about a year and a half ago. While chatbots had been around for a while, this was the first time we had free access to a powerful language model that could engage in natural conversations and had an extensive knowledge base.

Many people first learned about this tool through Twitter. Interestingly, some of the key members of OpenAI also discovered it through the social network. “When ChatGPT came out in November 2022, the board was not informed in advance about that. We learned about ChatGPT on Twitter,” former board member Helen Toner said on The TED AI Show podcast.

Chatgpt 1 Former OpenAI board member Helen Toner.

Toner is an artificial intelligence researcher who was a board member at OpenAI when ChatGPT was launched. She, along with co-founder Ilya Sutskever and former board member Tasha McCauley, left their positions when CEO Sam Altman was reinstated after his dismissal in November 2023.

Prior to leaving OpenAI, Toner co-published a study from Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET) warning about the risks associated with OpenAI’s products. “We were not motivated by a desire to slow down OpenAI’s work,” Toner shared on her X account last year.

Toner’s recent comments align with the November 2023 crisis at OpenAI. Earlier this month, the company was embroiled in another controversy over attempts to enlist Scarlett Johansson to become the voice of ChatGPT, a nod to Johansson's role as the virtual assistant Samantha in Spike Jones’ movie Her. Although the negotiation failed, OpenAI still managed to give its chatbot voice a voice similar to Johansson's.

Even though Altman currently holds a more influential position at OpenAI and is a member of its safety committee, the board of directors fired him last year. The company’s leadership stated that he had been dishonest in his communications and could no longer be relied upon.

Image | CSET | OpenAI | TechCrunch| Solen Feyissa

Related | We Thought ChatGPT Was Great for Programming. A New Study Find That Half of Its Answers Are Wrong

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