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OpenAI’s Israeli co-founder departs as US gears up regulation

Chief scientist Ilya Sutskever steps down, paving the way for new leadership amid the intensifying race towards artificial intelligence.

Credit: FlatFrenzy/Shutterstock.
Credit: FlatFrenzy/Shutterstock.

In a move that shakes up the world of artificial intelligence, Ilya Sutskever, the respected chief scientist and co-founder of OpenAI, has announced his departure from the San Francisco-based company.

Sutskever, who holds citizenship in Russia, Israel and Canada, made aliyah with his family from Russia and lived in Israel until age 15, when he moved to Canada. He attended the Open University of Israel between 2000 and 2002.

His exit follows months of speculation about the future of the renowned AI researcher who played a pivotal role in the brief ousting of CEO Sam Altman last year.

According to OpenAI’s blog post on Tuesday, Sutskever will be replaced by Research Director Jakub Pachocki, the lead developer of the company’s GPT-4 model.

In a post on X, Sutskever called OpenAI’s trajectory “miraculous” and expressed confidence that the company will continue to develop safe and beneficial AI under its current leadership.

His resignation marks the end of an era for a pivotal figure who has been with the organization since its inception in 2015. Recruited by Elon Musk, he served as the research director, bringing his expertise in neural networks from the University of Toronto and Google Brain. He even officiated at OpenAI’s president Greg Brockman’s wedding at the company’s offices.

Last year, Sutskever was part of a group that briefly ousted Altman as CEO, after having clashed with him over the pace of AI development, aligning with scientists who warned about the potential harm of unconstrained AI growth, such as the spread of misinformation. This decision sparked an employee revolt and Altman’s eventual reinstatement. In the aftermath, Sutskever largely disappeared from public view, fueling speculation about his role at the company.

In his farewell post on X, Altman praised Sutskever, calling him “easily one of the greatest minds of our generation, a guiding light of our field, and a dear friend.” Sutskever, meanwhile, revealed he is working on an unnamed project that is “very personally meaningful” for him.

As OpenAI undergoes this leadership transition, Congress is gearing up to regulate the rapidly advancing AI industry. On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of senators, including Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), unveiled a 31-page “road map” that calls for a $32 billion infusion for AI research and development, as well as legislation to evaluate harm from AI and protect sectors such as healthcare and housing.

“This will be the broadest and, dare I say, deepest legislative document as it relates to AI that has been produced yet,” said Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.), part of the group that drafted the recommendations.

The senators’ move comes as Silicon Valley companies race ahead with new AI products. This week alone, OpenAI announced upgrades to make ChatGPT more conversational, while Google revealed plans to integrate AI-generated answers into search results.

Schumer suggested a piecemeal approach, advancing bills targeting the most urgent AI issues first. “We’re not going to wait on legislation that addresses every aspect of AI in society,” he said, expressing confidence that some AI bills could pass the Senate by year’s end.

As the AI revolution continues to unfold, the departures at OpenAI and the congressional push for regulation underscore the growing urgency to navigate the promises and perils of this transformative technology.

Originally published by Israel Hayom.

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