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What is project ‘Q*’ that led to Sam Altman’s OpenAI ouster before return as CEO


One of the reasons behind Sam Altman’s sacking as OpenAI CEO – he has since returned to the company – by the ChatGPT creator’s board, could be a project known as ‘Q*,’ Reuters has reported.

Sam Altman (AP)
Sam Altman (AP)

It must be noted that Altman, who was terminated on November 17, was reinstated five days later after employees threatened to resign en masse; the board that sacked him has also been ‘replaced.’

What is project Q*?

According to Reuters, many people at OpenAI believe Q* (Q-Star) to be the San Francisco-based startup’s breakthrough in its search for what is known as ‘artificial general intelligence’ (AGI). OpenAI describes AGI as ‘autonomous systems that surpass humans in most economically valuable tasks.’

Mira Murati, the AI research firm’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO), had acknowledged the existence of Q* in an internal email to employees, and alerted them to ‘certain media stories’ without commenting on their accuracy.

What are the abilities of AGI?

While the claimed abilities of AGI could not be independently verified, the new model, it is said, can solve certain mathematical problems. Also, unlike a calculator, AGI can generalise, learn, and comprehend, while the former can solve only a limited number of operations.

What was the board warned about?

While the letter highlighted the model’s AI prowess, it also flagged the potential danger, without, however, specifying the exact safety concerns. Computer scientists have long held discussions about the risks posed by highly-intelligent machines, for example, instances in which the machines might decide that the ‘destruction of humanity’ was in their interest.

The letter also expressed concerns regarding the ‘AI scientist team,’ formed by combining the earlier ‘Code Gen’ and ‘Math Gen’ groups. This team was exploring ways to optimise the existing AI models to improve their reasoning, to eventually make the models perform scientific tasks.


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