Sam Altman: ChatGPT creator Sam Altman on the things he wishes someone had told him

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2023 was a wild ride for Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI. He navigated turbulent waters, from steering OpenAI to a multi-billion dollar valuation with ChatGPT and GPT-4 to facing a boardroom coup and subsequent reinstatement. He emerged as Time Magazine’s CEO of the Year, hailed as the prophet of a new AI era. Now, with OpenAI crowned the “brain trust of the future,” Altman stands poised to shape the course of AI, a pressure cooker role that promises both immense potential and ethical challenges.Altman looked back on 2023 in a blog post which was rather philosophically titled “What I wish someone had told me”.
It’s a long list of things but a few things do stand out. For instance, Altman says to get started one needs “optimism, obsession, self-belief, raw horsepower and personal connections.” He also said that “it is easier for a team to do a hard thing that really matters than to do an easy thing that doesn’t really matter; audacious ideas motivate people.” Altman wrote that he wish he knew someone told him that one should “fight bullshit and bureaucracy every time you see it and get other people to fight it too. Do not let the org chart get in the way of people working productively together.”
He also had words of advice on how to recruit people. “Spend more time recruiting. Take risks on high-potential people with a fast rate of improvement. Look for evidence of getting stuff done in addition to intelligence,” he wrote.
Some other notable things that Altman wishes someone had told him include:

  • Superstars are even more valuable than they seem, but you have to evaluate people on their net impact on the performance of the organisation.
  • Fast iteration can make up for a lot; it’s usually ok to be wrong if you iterate quickly. Plans should be measured in decades, execution should be measured in weeks.
  • Don’t fight the business equivalent of the laws of physics.
  • Inspiration is perishable and life goes by fast. Inaction is a particularly insidious type of risk.
  • Scale often has surprising emergent properties.
  • Compounding exponentials are magic. In particular, you really want to build a business that gets a compounding advantage with scale.
  • Get back up and keep going.
  • Working with great people is one of the best parts of life.



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