OpenAI Welcomes Larry Summers to Its Board, Elevating AI Discourse

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On Tuesday night, OpenAI made headlines by welcoming back Sam Altman, their previously ousted CEO, and introducing a revamped board.

Among the new members, the surprising addition was Larry Summers, a name not commonly linked with Silicon Valley.

This economist and former Treasury Secretary joined forces with Bret Taylor, a former co-CEO of Salesforce Inc., and the existing board member Adam D’Angelo to form what the company called an “initial board.”

Altman’s sudden dismissal by OpenAI’s former directors on Friday triggered a gripping series of events that raised uncertainties about the future of this highly-watched startup in the tech world.

OpenAI disclosed that they were still ironing out the specifics of their new management structure in an online post.

However, with Summers on board, the company gains a member deeply connected to Wall Street and Washington. He firmly believes that artificial intelligence is poised to impact white-collar jobs significantly.

Summers holds positions on several tech boards, including Block Inc. and Skillsoft Corp., alongside Jack Dorsey’s payments firm.

While he became an adviser to the prominent venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz in 2011, his recent involvement with their investments has not been publicly disclosed.

Previously, Summers played significant roles in the Clinton and Obama administrations, leading the Treasury Department and offering economic counsel. He also served as Harvard University’s president.

Presently, Summers contributes as a paid member to Bloomberg Television.

His discussions regarding AI have primarily revolved around its impact on labor. In 2018, he challenged former Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s assertions that AI wouldn’t replace American jobs for 50 to 100 years.

Summers penned an article in the Washington Post stating, “The robots are coming.” During that same period, he voiced concerns about potential economic upheaval if the United States were to relinquish its leadership position in biotech and AI to China.

In December of 2022, just one month following the introduction of ChatGPT, the chatbot developed by OpenAI that sparked the current surge in AI interest, Summers drew parallels between this service and historically groundbreaking advancements such as the printing press and electricity.

He expressed on Bloomberg TV, “This might just be the most pivotal general-purpose technology since the invention of the wheel or fire.”

In April, Summers forecasted that ChatGPT was poised to disrupt the cognitive sphere, foreseeing its potential to make higher-skilled positions redundant initially.

He suggested that ChatGPT would revolutionize tasks akin to those of doctors, like recognizing symptoms and providing diagnoses, before impacting nursing roles.

Summers explained to Bloomberg TV that the technology would alter the landscape of trading in financial markets before affecting the responsibilities of sales professionals.

Summers may find himself responsible for assembling a more comprehensive board and addressing the governance structure at OpenAI.

According to an unnamed source familiar with the matter, this board may involve Altman and Microsoft Corp., the company’s primary supporter.

During his tenure as Harvard University’s president in 2005, Summers sparked controversy with remarks suggesting inherent gender differences hindered women from excelling in math and science professions. He later issued an apology for these comments.

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