Mira Murati went from her childhood in Albania to Tesla and then to OpenAI, which she runs today. Philippe Pacheco/Bloomberg via Getty Images
THE leadership shakeup at OpenAI The world was shocked on Friday as the company’s board fired CEO Sam Altman, despite him becoming the face of artificial intelligence for many in Silicon Valley and beyond. But it’s also highlighted by Mira Murati, the chief technology officer suddenly thrust into the role of interim CEO of OpenAI.
Murati was already considered one of the most influential businesswomen before this decision. Fortune the magazine featured her on the cover of its October/November session issue about the “100 most influential women”.
She will now lead one of the world’s most valuable companies, reshaping industries with increasingly powerful AI tools. A look back at his improbable journey and his impressive rise through his interview with Fortune gives us hints about how she might lead OpenAI in her new role.
Before joining OpenAI in 2018, Murati worked on AI applications at You’re hereplaying a senior product manager role on the model X. She described her work at Elon Musk’s electric vehicle maker as “a very formative time, going through the whole experience of designing and deploying a complete vehicle.”
But, she adds, “I was more interested in general intelligence. I wasn’t sure it was going to happen at that point, but I knew that even if we got really close, the things we would build along the way would be amazing.
With that in mind, OpenAI’s mission to develop AI tools that benefit humanity “really resonated with me,” she said.
But nothing in his childhood suggested that Murati would end up at Tesla and OpenAI, two of the hottest tech companies. First of all, geography. Murati grew up in Albania as the Balkan country was transitioning from a totalitarian communist system to a more democratic government. Despite the slowness of the Internet, she was already looking for ways to apply technology to life’s biggest problems and was curious about how the human brain worked.
At 16, she left for Canada after obtaining a scholarship to attend an international school in Canada. From there, she earned an engineering degree at Dartmouth before joining Tesla.
As CTO of OpenAI, she has of course been deeply involved in advancing the company’s AI technology. When Fortune met her in OpenAI’s San Francisco office, she demonstrated a feature allowing users to simply talk to ChatGPT.
“Basically, this is all about giving people the ability to interact with technology in a very natural way,” she said.
But Murati also takes AI security very seriously.
The issue of AI security was at the heart of Friday’s leadership shakeup, according to anonymous sources who spoke to Bloombergwith OpenAI Chief Scientist Ilya Sutskever and others disagree with Altman on how quickly to commercialize generative AI capabilities.
Murati recognizes the competition among AI companies, including OpenAI, to offer the latest and greatest features. But she said that while “competition is a good thing because it can drive advancement and progress,” she worries about a “race to the bottom when it comes to safety.”
She added that if AI competitors are primarily driven by competition and “lose sight of the risks and the issues, that would be a huge problem.”
What is particularly challenging, she noted, “is being able to predict emerging capabilities and anticipate some of the risks associated with deployment. Because ultimately you have to institutionalize and operationalize these things, and it can’t just be about policies and ideas.
OpenAI’s goal, she reiterated, was to achieve artificial general intelligence (AGI) – a system capable of competing with humans when faced with an unknown task – in a way that is beneficial and not harmful to society.
As she said Fortune“Our goal is to achieve AGI, and we want to achieve it in a way that ensures that AGI happens well for humanity and that we build something that is ultimately beneficial.”
She will now play an even more important role in ensuring OpenAI achieves this goal.