What is Q*? The AI Project Which May Have Ousted Sam Altman and Left the Board Unhappy The public perception was also pro-Altman (and OpenAI staff) and did question if the reason was pure ego. Turns out, the reason was not ego but can be traced to a breakthrough in AI called Q* (pronounced as Q Star)

By Paromita Gupta

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The four-day exile of Sam Altman saw OpenAI get three (interim) CEOs in a span of 96 hours. While Altman is back heading the AI establishment, one question which was asked by everyone was- why was he fired in the first place?

"He (Altman) was not consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities. The board no longer has confidence in his ability to continue leading OpenAI," was the reason stated by OpenAI on November 17 when Altman was fired as the CEO.

But the statement was certainly not good enough to be left alone. About 740 OpenAI staff out of 770 threatened to quit if the board did not resign and get Altman back. The public perception was also pro-Altman (and OpenAI staff) and did question if the reason was pure ego.

Turns out, the reason was not ego but can be traced to a breakthrough in AI called Q* (pronounced as Q Star).

What is Q*?

Q* is a significant advancement towards Artificial General Intelligence. AGI is defined as a system which can perform most economically valuable tasks better than humans.

First reported by Reuters, several researchers flagged the issue in a letter to the board, warning that this development could threaten humanity.

Two people familiar with the matter shared that Q* was one of the several grievances the board had with Altman. The list also included commercializing advances before understanding the consequences of it.

One ability which gave away the Q* as a highly concerning and advanced tech was its ability to solve mathematical solutions. Typically, the AI or Generative AI works well on text, as it can predict the next work of the sentence.

Scientists and researchers believe math to be a frontier of Gen AI development.

Presently, Q* can solve grade-school level math problems, giving researchers a reason to believe it has an optimistic future.

A deliberate move?

"I've got to be in the room (just a couple of weeks ago) when we push the veil of ignorance back and the frontier of discovery forward," Altman shared at a symposium in San Francisco recently.

It's rumoured that the internal demo was also witnessed by Ilya and Greg Brockman (President at OpenAI) in the absence of the board.

Ilya Sutskever, the co-founder and Chief Scientist at OpenAI in October shared in an interview "We carefully curate the data such that we never mention anything about consciousness. We give it surface-level experiences and mundane objects. At some point, we would tell AI about the concept of consciousness. If the AI agrees and says it's been experiencing the same thing or recognizes the experience, then that would be something to think about."

"Is this a tool we've built or a creature we have created?" Altman said at a recent event.

Paromita Gupta

Features Writer with Entrepreneur India

Covering news and trends in AI and Metaverse segments. An avid book reader running her personal blog on the side. You may reach me at paromita@entrepreneurindia.com. 

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