OpenAI chief scientist Ilya Sutskever is leaving. But what did he see? from Mashable

Ilya Sutskever is leaving OpenAI, and we have questions. One in particular.

Announcing the move on X on Tuesday night, the company’s chief scientist said he made the decision to leave himself.

“The company’s trajectory has been nothing short of miraculous, and I’m confident that OpenAI will build AGI that is both safe and beneficial under the leadership of @sama, @gdb, @miramurati and now, under the excellent research leadership of @merettm. It was an honor and a privilege to have worked together, and I will miss everyone dearly,” Sutskever wrote, adding that his next endeavour is a project “that is very personally meaningful” to him, with details coming “in due time.”


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OpenAI CEO Sam Altman posted about the move as well, calling Sutskever “easily one of the greatest minds of our generation.”

“OpenAI would not be what it is without him. Although he has something personally meaningful he is going to go work on, I am forever grateful for what he did here and committed to finishing the mission we started together. I am happy that for so long I got to be close to such genuinely remarkable genius, and someone so focused on getting to the best future for humanity,” he wrote.

Altman also noted that Jakub Pachocki, OpenAI’s director of research, is going to be OpenAI’s next chief scientist.

While both Altman and Sutskever indicated that Sutskever’s departure has to do with his ambition to do a personally meaningful project (both using this exact same phrase), it’s hard not to relate the move to OpenAI’s recent leadership crisis, in which Altman was temporarily ousted from the company, with Sutskever leading the move (before backpedaling and saying he deeply regretted Altman’s firing).


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That something was amiss was so obvious that the internet turned the situation into a meme. “What did Ilya see,” once referenced by OpenAI once-investor, now-critic Elon Musk, refers to the (conspiracy?) theory that Sutskever saw something alarming in Altman’s leadership, prompting him to initially support Altman’s ousting. The question was, jokingly or not, immediately asked as a reply to both Sutskever and Altman‘s posts on X.

It’s not just Sutskever that’s left; Jan Leike, the researcher that was co-leading OpenAI’s Superalignment team which worked on the problems of “steering and controlling” AI that’s much smarter than humans, also left the company. Early on Wednesday, he simply tweeted “I resigned.”


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Musk elaborated on his concerns about OpenAI in a lawsuit against the company in which he had once invested. In the filing, he demands OpenAI to become a nonprofit again, arguing that the company’s latest AI model is too powerful to be (essentially) owned by Microsoft, which has a large stake in OpenAI. It’s unclear where, exactly, Sutskever stands on the matter.

Given the tone of Sutskever and Altman’s post, it’s unlikely we’ll (soon) find out the intricacies of Sutskever’s departure from OpenAI. It’ll nevertheless be interesting to see what Sutskever’s “personally meaningful” new project will be.

With all the turmoil that’s been going on inside OpenAI, the company appears to be on an upward trajectory, having recently launched its most powerful publicly available AI model so far, GPT-4o.