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Who is Mira Murati? All About The OpenAI CTO + Her Drama

In a world where LLMs are used freely, there are still some people in power who are pushing for AI governance. Mira Murati, the CTO of OpenAI, is one of them. But, who is she really and what role did she play in the recent leadership shakeup at OpenAI?
Updated January 16, 2024
The world of Mira Murati, generated with Midjourney
The world of Mira Murati, generated with Midjourney

When Sam Altman created OpenAI, his first step was to hire the best minds in deep learning — people who, even before ChatGPT, was already making waves in the tech scene. However, as OpenAI becomes more popular, the more these geniuses fade into the background. 

It’s not until the drama behind OpenAI’s leadership unfolded that ordinary people became more aware of who actually runs this company. During this saga, there were two names that kept popping up everywhere: Ilya Sutskever and Mira Murati, the company’s CTO and interim CEO for two days.

So, who is she really? How important is she to OpenAI? All that, and more, in this article.

Murati’s Early Years

The year was 1988. Enver Hoxha, former prime minister and dictator of Albania, just passed away a few years prior. The country is in a state of uncertainty. Revolutions would soon follow, ranging from peaceful assemblies to violent demonstrations.

Somewhere in Vlorë, one of the most important places in Communist Albania and home to the Soviet Union’s submarine base, a girl named Mira Murati was born.

Over the next few years, communism would fall in Albania and would soon be replaced with democracy. In post-communist Albania, education in the country focused on mathematics and science. This is the era that Murati grew up in, and it was for this reason that she would become one of the most important women in the world.

She was particularly gifted at mathematics, even becoming Albania’s representatives in various Math Olympiads. She immigrated to Canada in the early 2000s to attend Pearson College UWC, one of the best high schools in the world, thanks to a scholarship. After that, she attended Dartmouth College, earning a Bachelor of Engineering in Mechanical Engineering.

A Timeline Of Her Career

If there’s one thing clear about Murati’s career, it’s that she was never one for staying still. Here’s a timeline of her career from her internship years to 2018:

  • 2011: An internship at Goldman Sachs.
  • 2012 to 2013: An aerospace engineer at Zodiac Aerospace.
  • 2013 to 2016: A Senior Product Manager at Tesla where she was instrumental in the development of the Model S and Model X. She credits her time spent at Tesla developing autopilot for introducing her to artificial intelligence and its many possible applications in society.
  • 2016 to 2018: Afterwards, she became the Vice President of Product and Engineering at Leap Motion, an augmented reality startup. Here she was able to work with spatial computing, something that she would bring to the next step of her career.

And again, it was time for her to move on towards better things. She had two choices: OpenAI or DeepMind. Her choice ultimately came down to what was better for society as a whole, rather than what was better for her career. She chose OpenAI.

Murati’s OpenAI Years

She first joined OpenAI as a researcher and the VP of Applied AI and Partnerships. Eventually, she would be thrust into leadership as their Chief Technology Officer. Under her guidance and expertise, OpenAI was able to develop three key products that would soon make their company a household name:

  • GPT Models: An advanced LLM model that can generate text using an unfathomably large training set. This is the model behind ChatGPT, an AI chatbot that gained over 100 million users in two months.
  • DALL-E: A text-to-image generator with unparalleled nuance.
  • Codex: The neural network for coding that powers GitHub’s CoPilot.

Campaigning For Ethical AGI

There’s no doubt that AI will one day change the world, if it hasn’t already. We’ve all seen the impact it has on fields like education, healthcare, marketing, and more — for better or worse. That’s why it’s reassuring to have Murati as OpenAI’s CTO, as she’s a huge believer in AI regulation and ethics.

In an interview with Time Magazine, Murati perfectly encapsulates the problem with LLMs like GPT:

“How do you govern the use of AI in a way that’s aligned with human values?”

She further adds that it’s the responsibility of OpenAI to work alongside government and agencies to bring these products in such a way that they’re “controlled and responsible.” Murati believes that the time is now to create regulations that would limit the use of these technologies so that they’re only used ethically.

Apart from steering OpenAI to follow ethical development, Murati was named a member of the United Nations’ Advisory Body on AI, which actively guides companies and government entities to only allow superintelligences that will benefit humanity.

What We Know About Her Role in OpenAI’s Leadership Controversy

The tech world was shaken to its core last month after OpenAI announced that they’re firing Sam Altman, co-founder, as their CEO. In his place, Murati was named Interim CEO. This led many people to believe that Murati and Ilya Sutskever planned to take control of the company since the latter was a board member.

However, things behind the scenes are much more complicated than that. Here’s a timeline of events leading up to Altman’s reinstatement:

  • November 17th: OpenAI announces that they’re not moving forward with Altman as CEO.
  • November 17th: Mira Murati is named Interim CEO.
  • November 17th: Four key figures, including Greg Brockman and Jakub Pachocki, resigned in solidarity with Altman.
  • November 18th: OpenAI opens up to the idea of Altman returning as CEO. He also announces a possible move to Microsoft.
  • November 20th: Emmett Shear, Twitch’s co-founder, is named third OpenAI CEO. 
  • November 21st: More than 90% of OpenAI’s employees, including Murati herself, sign a petition saying that they’ll resign if Altman isn’t reinstated.
  • November 22nd: Altman is reinstated.

So, was Murati plotting against Altman? I don’t believe so. Instead, she was put in the leadership position during a tumultuous time to weather the storm. This is further proven by the fact that both she and Sutskever remain at OpenAI with leadership positions after the whole debacle.

The Bottom Line

There are many ways to answer the question, “Who is Mira Murati?”

A genius. A trailblazing woman in technology. A born leader. One of the world’s best engineers. One of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World.

But there’s one particular answer that I like most: an idealist.

She took what little education she had in Albania and made the most of it. Murati isn’t at the forefront of artificial intelligence today because she’s self-serving, she’s there because the shoe fits her well. She believes in a world where artificial intelligence and humanity can co-exist and mold the world for the better.

That’s who Murati is. That’s who I want leading the charge in AI ethics.

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Written by John Angelo Yap
Hi, I'm Angelo. I'm currently an undergraduate student studying Software Engineering. Now, you might be wondering, what is a computer science student doing writing for Gold Penguin? I took up studying computer science because it was practical and because I was good at it. But, if I had the chance, I'd be writing for a career. Building worlds and adjectivizing nouns for no other reason other than they sound good. And that's why I'm here.
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