OpenAI’s Chief Scientist, Ilya Sutskever, Bids Farewell

In this post:

  • Ilya Sutskever, who co-founded the company with Sam Altman and Elon Musk, confirmed his departure.
  • OpenAI’s research director, Jakub Pachoki, will replace him.
  • Sutskever is leaving to work on a project that is unknown but is personally important to him.

OpenAI co-founder and chief scientist Ilya Sutskever is leaving the company at a time when artificial intelligence growth is exploding and the startup has turned into a powerful entity in the tech scene.

Ilya Sutskever leaves OpenAI

Jakub Pachocki will take the place of Sutskever, OpenAI announced in a blog post. Pachocki is currently serving as research director.

In an X post, Sutskever wrote,

“After almost a decade, I have made the decision to leave OpenAI. The company’s trajectory has been nothing short of miraculous.”

He expressed his anticipation for the company, saying that it will perform well under the current leadership of Sam Altman and others and also now under the research stewardship of Pachocki.

Pachoki, who considers Sutskever a mentor, has thanked him for introducing him to the world of research in deep learning. He said that the chief scientist’s vision played a key role in where OpenAI is today.

OpenAI posted chief executive officer Sam Altman’s message on its blog, which said,

“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.”

Altman said that Sutskever has something that is personally meaningful to him on which he will be working. Altman said that he is grateful for what he did at OpenAI to achieve the goals of the mission that they started together.

Altman also said that,

“OpenAI would not be what it is without him.”

Source: OpenAI.

A tale of turbulent times

OpenAI went through a leadership crisis in November last year when the company’s board fired CEO Sam Altman, citing that he had not been “consistently candid.” 

But later on, things turned more complex, and with Microsoft’s involvement, which is a heavy backer of OpenAI, Altman was reinstated along with dramatic changes in the board. The point to remember is that Sutskever was also a board member who fired Altman. 

But Sutskever soon said that he regretted the decision. He also signed the letter that was signed by almost all the employees who demanded Altman’s return.

Back at that time, some media outlets reported that Sutskever wanted to ensure that AI would be safe for humans and would not harm them, while Altman and others wanted to push the technology for further advancement and deliver new solutions.

After Altman’s return, Sutskever was removed from the board along with some others, and his position at the company was unclear.

However, at Sutskever’s departure, Altman said that his brilliance is well known. He is leaving the company just a day after the company announced a new AI model called ChatGPT-4o and some iterations of it for desktop and mobile versions.

Sutskever has been in AI research for quite a while, and before founding OpenAI, he worked as a researcher at Google Brain, with former experience working with one of the godfathers of AI, Geoffrey Hinton.

Altman and Elon Musk wanted Sutskever to leave Google and join their startup, which Sutskever could not easily decide. It is said that Musk finally convinced him to join the startup.

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