Reviews | Sam Altman is back at OpenAI. I have a question for him.

Podcaster and MIT scientist Lex Fridman, who has become the father confessor of the tech world, Express the rapid range of emotions I encountered again and again: “You sit, both proud, like a parent, but almost proud and afraid that this thing is much smarter than me. Like both pride and sadness, almost like a feeling of melancholy, but ultimately joy.

When I visited OpenAI headquarters in May, I found the culture quite impressive. Most of the people I interviewed came from the days when OpenAI was a non-profit research lab, before the ChatGPT hubbub – when most of us had never heard of it. business. “My parents didn’t really know what OpenAI did,” product manager Joanne Jang told me, “and they were like, ‘Are you leaving Google?'” Mark Chen, a researcher who helped create the visual DALL-E 2 tool, had a similar experience. “Before ChatGPT, my mom would call me every week and say, ‘Hey, you know, you can stop hanging around and go work at Google or something.'” These people aren’t primarily motivated by money.

Even after GPT made headlines, being at OpenAI was like being in the eye of a hurricane. “It’s just that it’s a lot quieter than the rest of the world,” Jang told me. “From the beginning, it was more like a research lab, because we mainly recruited just researchers,” Elena Chatziathanasiadou, a recruiter, told me. “And then, as we grew, it became clear to everyone that progress would come from both engineering and research.”

I didn’t meet any tech experts there, or even people who had the kind of “we’re changing the world” bravado that I probably would have if I were a pioneer in this technology. Diane Yoon, whose title is vice president of personnel, told me, “The word I would use for this workforce is serious…serious. »

Usually when I visit a tech company, as a journalist, I meet very few executives, and those I interview respond ruthlessly to the message. OpenAI just released a sign-up sheet and people have been coming to talk to me.