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I can’t wait to see what Ilya Sutskever creates now that he’s leaving OpenAI

Published May 15th, 2024 6:50AM EDT
OpenAI chief scientist Ilya Sutskever
Image: Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images

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Ilya Sutskever, the cofounder and chief scientist of OpenAI, dropped a massive bombshell late on Tuesday, announcing his departure from the company that unleased ChatGPT onto the world, igniting this massive AI revolution. Sutskever teased that he will be moving on to an exciting but mysterious project after helping create the genAI products that turned OpenAI into one of the biggest companies in tech seemingly overnight.

Sutskever’s departure isn’t surprising considering the events at the company last fall. Back in November, Sutskever was seen as the mastermind behind the coup that saw Sam Altman get fired.

But then his role in the ouster came into question as Altman was rehired under the pressure of OpenAI employees, including Sutskever. While the chief scientist supported Altman’s return, he hasn’t exactly been seen since then.

What’s surprising is the timing of the announcement. On Monday, OpenAI unveiled GPT-4o, arguably one of the most significant ChatGPT upgrades so far. The GPT-4o dropped right before Google’s big I/O 2024 event, whose only focus was AI. Some of Google’s announcements matched OpenAI’s developments, showing how close the AI race between the two companies is about to get.

Sutskever took to X to announce his departure from OpenAI. That’s where he teased his excitement for what comes next:

After almost a decade, I have made the decision to leave OpenAI. 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. So long, and thanks for everything. I am excited for what comes next – a project that is very personally meaningful to me about which I will share details in due time.

AGI stands for artificial general intelligence, or an AI that can tackle any problem like a human. When Sutskever and the board fired Altman, there were worries that OpenAI might have reached AGI and that ChatGPT development was moving too fast under Altman.

While Sutskever supported Altman’s return, there’s no denying the former lost public visibility. VentureBeat points out that Sutskever has not been seen at OpenAI events, inspiring a meme on X, “Where’s Ilya?”

Sutskever also told The New York Times that he was going to work on a new project after leaving the company.

OpenAI confirmed in a blog post that Sutskever will leave the company. Replacing him as OpenAI chief scientist is Jakub Pachocki. Here’s Sam Altman’s quote from the blog:

Ilya and OpenAI are going to part ways. This is very sad to me; Ilya is easily one of the greatest minds of our generation, a guiding light of our field, and a dear friend. His brilliance and vision are well known; his warmth and compassion are less well known but no less important.

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.

Jakub is going to be our new Chief Scientist. Jakub is also easily one of the greatest minds of our generation; I am thrilled he is taking the baton here. He has run many of our most important projects, and I am very confident he will lead us to make rapid and safe progress towards our mission of ensuring that AGI benefits everyone.

Altman also mentioned that Sutskever will work on “something personally meaningdul,” without disclosing what it is. It’s not Altman’s place to say, of course, but I can’t but wonder if the OpenAI knows what it is. Also, I’d expect the mysterious project to be connected to artificial intelligence. That’s what Sutskever has been working on all his life.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.