He is ambitious, entrepreneurial, methodical, a democrat and openly gay. An X-ray of OpenAI’s CEO.

Sam Altman is, above all, a myth. Some technology experts say he was a child genius: at the age of 8, he already knew how to program. At that age, the mind behind the artificial intelligence company OpenAI, one of the most important on the planet, had his first computer: an Apple Macintosh.

Sam is a thirty-something (37 years old) with brown hair that is almost always messy. He is 1.73 meters tall and has green eyes. He is a Taurus. He is the son of dermatologist Connie Gibstine. At 16 he came out of the closet at home and at school: he is openly gay. He is an entrepreneur, programmer and investor. He is now also one of the most influential people in the technology industry.

He grew up in a Jewish family in Chicago, USA. He studied computer science at Stanford University in California, but in 2005 he dropped out: he preferred to devote all his time to the development of Loopt, a mobile application that allows you to locate other people in real time, an idea that emerged long before Facebook, Twitter or WhatsApp existed: it reached a valuation of more than 175 million dollars. However, due to poor acceptance by people, he sold the project for $45 million.

In 2008 he was named by Bloomberg BusinessWeek as one of the “Best Young Entrepreneurs in Technology” and in 2011 he became a partner of Y Combinator, the company dedicated to supporting startups. In 2015 he joined his vision with that of Elon Musk to create OpenAI, a company dedicated to the research and development of artificial intelligence (AI)-based projects beneficial to humanity. They have worked together for a long time on various initiatives: Sam was a member of Tesla’s board of directors (2014-2018) and has collaborated for Musk’s neurotechnology company called Neuralink.

He was highlighted as the top investor under 30 by Forbes in 2015. A rather well-deserved title: his name appears as an investor in major companies such as Airbnb, Stripe, Pinterest, Zenefits, True North, Verbling, Soylent, Change.org, among others. In 2017 he received an honorary degree from the University of Waterloo in Canada.

José Betancur, director of Nodo Eafit, says Sam is someone they are listening to quite a bit in the tech sector, because he knows what he’s talking about and he chooses. “He earned a right to exist in terms of being riding on what he is. He’s had a number of good bets in terms of investment.”

His vision

His ideas rather than changing the world, what they aim for is that AI should be for human development and not against it. Its principles should be ethics, security, transparency and collaboration. This was stated by Jhon Ballesteros, professor at the National University. “He is a very influential figure in the last five years, his leadership has had quite a significant impact in terms of how entrepreneurship is approached and how to research in AI,” Ballesteros added.

According to Personality Database, the portal that compiles data on celebrity personalities, Altman’s way of being is INTJ-5w6 type. This means that he is extremely methodical and empirical, and that he is frequently testing the effectiveness of his ideas to get feedback. He is also a stereotypical scientist who champions the scientific method.

“We have an internal process where we try to break things down and study impacts. We use external auditors. We have external red teams. We work with other labs, we have assurance that organizations look at things that ChatGPT is going to cause or is causing,” Sam recounted during an event last month.

He is close to the U.S. Democratic Party and is remembered for his differences with former President Donald Trump on issues related to climate change and equal pay.

Scientist Danny Gómez Ramírez, a professor at Institución Universitaria Pascual Bravo, also described him as a very focused person with a high level of concentration. “He is moderately introverted because he dedicates hours and hours of continuous work on technology issues, which requires a certain kind of isolation.” But at the same time he is extroverted enough to be able to create his companies in which he has contact with investors. He is very astute in business models. He has a peculiar mix in his attitudes.

“He has a deep concern for the greatest needs of humanity today, but he is also very concerned about the greatest risks of life on earth related to war and viruses, he gives an excess of importance to these issues.”

Precisely, according to technology expert Diego Páramo Atalaya, OpenAI’s CEO is prepared for Doomsday. That is, it is equipped to react to a possible nuclear war or in case an AI gets out of control and starts “annihilating humanity”. It has gas masks, gold and iodine to contrast radioactivity. Some say it even has a bunker to protect itself against these threats. An attitude that could be catalogued as an apocalyptic vision, however, something strange happens and that is that he has an optimistic notion to try to change the world, which makes it even more difficult to decipher his logic.

In his January 20 newsletter, technology journalist Jordi Pérez of Spain’s El País said that Altman is “the typical smart young man (he’s one of those who thinks about every sentence before saying it) who admits with parsimony that what they are doing will have a brutal economic impact, but that ‘everything will be fine”.

His philosophy is not so much focused on moving fast, but on bringing out products that are a bit imperfect but will eventually be adopted by society. This includes people, institutions and governments. That they are adapting: feeling the technology as something practical.

“I understand why educators feel the way they feel, And I think this is just the new let’s try to, you know, do some things in the short term and there may be ways to help teachers be a little bit better at detecting any text from a GPT type system. But honestly, a determined person is going to get around it and I don’t think it’s something that society can rely on. We’re in a new world now,” Sam argued of ChatGPT’s impact on education.

His big argument, Perez said, is that “humans will adapt” to these new advances, which is why he is constantly innovating. The origin of ChatGPT was June 2020, when GPT-3 came out, although OpenAI has been working along these lines for longer.

So why are his ideas revolutionizing the AI field? Gomez stated that there is one reason and that is that it is not using new models, but using the existing ones, the classic ones, but incorporating a vastly greater technical capability to produce very mature programs.

Sam Altman has an optimistic and cautious view of the technology, but at the same time he is aware that there is a risk that it could go astray. He knows the challenges of AI. He is also one of those who thinks that if developments are controlled and used appropriately, they will benefit humanity. These are the chapters written by one of the heavyweights of artificial intelligence on the planet today.

Other tech giants in the world

Elon Musk

The 51-year-old South African billionaire is not satisfied with revolutionizing the world, he also wants to do it in space: with his rocket company SpaceX, he plans to take man back to the Moon. He is also the owner of Tesla, the electric car manufacturer. He recently bought Twitter for $44 billion. In 2015, he and Sam Altman founded OpenAI.

Jeff Bezos

The 59-year-old entrepreneur stepped down as CEO of Amazon, but retains his stake in the company on the board of directors as executive chairman. In 2013 he acquired The Washington Post newspaper for $250 million. He is also the owner of the space travel company Blue Origin, which achieved the first manned trip in 2021.

Mark Zuckerberg

He is the owner of Meta, the company that brings together such greats as Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Oculus VR. In 2018 he was the youngest person to appear on Forbes magazine’s list of billionaires, with a fortune of $73.2 billion. In 2021 he announced one of his latest projects: immersive experiences in the metaverse, he already has progress.

Bill Gates

The American entrepreneur, computer scientist and philanthropist is one of the ten richest men in the world: he has a fortune of more than 116 billion dollars. Gates was one of the creators of Microsoft, a technology company that produces computer software, consumer electronics, personal computers and related services.

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