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Sam Altman said he'd 'pick a different name' for OpenAI if he could go back in time

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman.
OpenAI CEO Sam Altman.Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images
  • OpenAI CEO Sam Altman says in hindsight, the name may not be apt for the AI company.

  • Elon Musk, who helped cofound OpenAI, has argued that it should not be called "open" if it's not open-source.

  • Altman said though the company's tech may not be entirely open-source, it is open in other ways.

Sam Altman suggested OpenAI may not be the most ideal name for the artificial intelligence company — at least in hindsight.

The 38-year-old OpenAI CEO — who cofounded the company along with Elon Musk and others in 2015 — explained on Lex Fridman's podcast that when the company was just getting started, they didn't quite know what it was going to be.

"We started off just thinking we were going to be a research lab and having no idea about how this technology was going to go," Altman told Fridman.

"This was before we had any idea about an API or selling access to a chatbot," Altman said on the podcast. "It was before we had any idea we were going to productize at all."

OpenAI was first established as a nonprofit whose mission was to benefit humanity with artificial intelligence, but it shed that status in 2019 when it transitioned to a "capped-profit" model.

Elon Musk — who has taken issue with the fact that OpenAI is not fully open-source — sued the company last month, alleging that it had breached its "founding agreement" and violated its original nonprofit mission.

"Change your name….To ClosedAI and I will drop the lawsuit," Musk wrote in a series of posts on X, formerly Twitter, earlier this month.

But Altman told Fridman that he doesn't really understand what Musk's "real motivations" are. He defended the company, saying it went through a natural transition process as "it became clear that we were going to need to do different things and also have huge amounts more capital."

"So we said, 'Okay, well, the structure doesn't quite work for that. How do we patch the structure?'" Altman added. "I think with many fundamentally new things, you start fumbling through the dark and you make some assumptions, most of which turned out to be wrong."

Altman said if he could go back in time with an Oracle, he might've done things differently.

"Speaking of going back with an Oracle, I'd pick a different name," Altman told Fridman.

Altman said that while OpenAI may not be completely open-source, it is open in other ways, like with the free version of its technology that's accessible to the public.

"So if we can keep putting free or low cost or free and low cost powerful AI tools out in the world, I think that's a huge deal for how we fulfill the mission," Altman told Fridman.

Read the original article on Business Insider