In a surprising move, OpenAI today abruptly fired Sam Altman, its CEO and a member of its board of directors, and installed CTO Mira Murati as interim CEO. But who, exactly, is Mira Murati?
Murati, who has a degree in mechanical engineering from Dartmouth College, previously worked as an intern at Goldman Sachs and then at Zodiac Aerospace, the French aerospace group. She spent three years at Tesla as a senior product manager of the Model X, the automaker's crossover SUV, during which Tesla released early versions of Autopilot, its AI-enabled driver-assistance software.
In 2016, Murati joined Leap Motion, a startup building hand- and finger-tracking motion sensors for PCs, as VP of product and engineering. Murati wanted to make the experience of interacting with a computer “as intuitive as playing with a ball," she told Fast Company in an interview. But she soon realized that the tech, which relied on a VR headset, was too early.
In 2018, Murati came to OpenAI as VP of applied AI and partnerships. After being promoted to CTO in 2022, she led the company's work on the viral AI-powered chatbot ChatGPT, the text-to-image AI DALL-E and the code-generating system Codex, which powers GitHub's Copilot product.
So what sort of interim CEO will Murati be? Perhaps she'll opt not to rock the boat as OpenAI's board of directors searches for a permanent replacement. But from what Murati has said in interviews, it's clear that she sees multimodal models -- i.e. models like OpenAI's GPT-4 with Vision, which can understand the context of images as well as text -- as the future of the company and one of the most promising paths to ultra-capable AI. Moreover, Murati appears to strongly believe in testing this type of AI out in the open in order to suss out flaws and discover potentially novel use cases.
"One of the reasons that we wanted to pursue DALL-E was to get to a more robust understanding of the world, to have these models understand the world the way that we do," Murati told Fast Company. “You put the technology in contact with reality; you see how people use it, what the limitations are; you learn from that; and you can feed it back into the technology development. The other dimension is that you can actually see how much [the technology is] moving the needle in solving real-world problems or whether it’s a novelty.”
Murati's projecting strength, for what it's worth. During a companywide meeting on Friday, she reportedly told OpenAI employees that Satya Nadella and Kevin Scott -- CEO and CTO, respectively, of Microsoft, one of OpenAI's biggest backers -- had "utmost confidence" in OpenAI's direction. And she reiterated that OpenAI was starting the search for a new CEO.
Read more of our ongoing coverage of Sam Altman’s firing from OpenAI: