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Sam Altman’s leap of faith – TechCrunch

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Earlier this year, founder-investor Sam Altman left his high-profile role as the president of Y Combinator to become the CEO of OpenAI, an AI research outfit that was founded by some of the most prominent people in the tech industry in late 2015. The idea: to ensure that artificial intelligence is “developed in a way that is safe and is beneficial to humanity,” as one of those founders, Elon Musk, said back then to the New York Times.

The move is intriguing for many reasons, including that artificial general intelligence — or the ability for machines to be as smart as humans — does not yet exist, with even AI’s top researchers far from clear about when it might. Under the leadership Altman, OpenAI, which was originally a non-profit, has also restructured as a for-profit company with some caveats, saying it will “need to invest billions of dollars in upcoming years into large-scale cloud compute, attracting and retaining talented people, and building AI supercomputers.”

Whether OpenAI is able to attract so much funding is an open question, but our guess is that it will, if for no reason other than Altman himself — a force of nature who easily charmed a crowd during an extended stage interview with this editor Thursday night, in a talk that covered everything from YC’s evolution to Altman’s current work at OpenAI.

On YC, for example, we discussed that leanness and “ramen profitability” was once the goal for graduates of the popular accelerator program but that a newer goal seems to be to immediately raise millions of dollars in venture funding, if not tens of millions of dollars. (“If I could control the market — obviously the free market is going to do its thing — I would not have YC companies raise the amounts of money they raise or at the valuations they do,” Altman told attendees at the small industry event. “I do think it is, on net, bad for the startups.”)

Altman was also candid when asked personal and occasionally corny questions, even offering up a story about the strong relationship he has long enjoyed with mom, who happened to be in town for the event. Not only did he say that she remains one of a small handful of people who he “absolutely” trusts, but he acknowledged that it has become harder over time to get unvarnished feedback from people outside that small circle. “You get to some point in your career where people are afraid to offend you or say something you might not want to hear. I’m definitely aware that I get stuff filtered and planned out ahead of time at this point.”

Certainly, Altman is given more rope than most.  Not only was this evidenced in the way that Altman ran Y Combinator for five years — essentially supersizing it time and again — but it’s plain from the way he discusses OpenAI that his current thinking is no less audacious. Indeed, much of what Altman said Thursday night would be considered pure insanity coming from someone else. Coming from Altman, it merely drew raised brows.

Asked for example, how OpenAI plans to make money (we wondered if it might license some of its work), Altman answered that the “honest answer is we have no idea. We have never made any revenue. We have no current plans to make revenue. We have no idea how we may one day generate revenue.”

Continued Altman, “We’ve made a soft promise to investors that, ‘Once we build a generally intelligent system, that basically we will ask it to figure out a way to make an investment return for you.’” When the crowd erupted with laughter (it wasn’t immediately obvious that he was serious), Altman himself offered that it sounds like an episode of “Silicon Valley,” but he added, “You can laugh. It’s all right. But it really is what I actually believe.”

We also asked what it means that, under Altman’s leadership, OpenAI has become a “capped profit” company, with the promise of giving investors up to 100 times their return before giving away excess profit to the rest of the world. We noted that 100x is a very high bar — so high in fact that most investors investing in plain-old for-profit companies seldom get close to a 100x return. For example, Sequoia Capital, the only institutional investor in WhatsApp, reportedly saw 50 times the $60 million it had invested in the company when it sold to Facebook for $22 billion, a stunning return.

But Altman not only pushed back on the idea the idea that “capped profit” is a bit of marketing brilliance, he doubled down on why it makes sense. Specifically, he said that the opportunity with artificial general intelligence is so incomprehensibly enormous that if OpenAI manages to crack this particular nut, it could “maybe capture the light cone of all future value in the universe, and that’s for sure not okay for one group of investors to have.”

He also said that future investors will see their investment capped at a lower return — that OpenAI basically wanted to find a way to reward its earliest backers given the risk they are taking.

Before we parted ways, we also shared with Altman various criticisms by AI researchers who we’d interviewed ahead of our sit-down and who’d complained that, among other things, OpenAI seeks out attention for qualitative and not foundational leaps in already proven work, and that its very mission of discovering a path to “safe” artificial general intelligence needlessly raises alarms and makes their research harder.

Altman absorbed and responded to each point. He wasn’t entirely dismissive of them, either, saying of OpenAI’s alarmist bent, for example, that he does have “some sympathy for that argument.”

Still, Altman insisted there’s a better argument to be made for thinking about — and talking with the media about — the potential societal consequences of AI, no matter how disingenuous some may find it. “The same people who say OpenAI is fear mongering or whatever are the same ones who are saying, ‘Shouldn’t Facebook have thought about this before they did it?’ This is us trying to think about it before we do it.”

You can check out the full interview below. The first half of our chat is largely centered on his Altman’s career at YC, where he remains chairman. We begin discussing OpenAI in greater detail around the 26-minute mark.

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2024 Kia EV9 Three-Row Electric SUV Reveals Range, Power And Tech

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The EV9 will be available with two different battery sizes and three different configurations of electric motors. The Standard RWD option receives a 76.1 kWh battery pack, while a larger 99.8 kWh battery powers both the Long Range RWD and AWD configurations. The Long Range RWD is the least powerful, with a 201 horsepower motor at the rear axle that pushes it from zero to 60 mph in an extremely lethargic 9.4 seconds. The estimated range for this model is 336 miles on a full charge. 

Do note that the estimated range was calculated using the more lenient WLTP method. When the range estimate is recalculated using the stricter EPA method in the U.S., expect that 336-mile figure to drop below 300 miles. Next up is the Standard RWD model with its 214 horsepower motor. With more horsepower than the long-range version and a smaller, lighter battery pack, this model achieves zero to 60 mph in 8.2 seconds. Better, but still pretty pokey. Unfortunately, Kia did not provide a range estimate for this model.

Lastly, we have the AWD variant, which packs a 371-horsepower punch from dual motors that scoot it from zero to 60 mph in a respectable 6.0 seconds flat. Interestingly, the automaker has indicated that an optional Boost feature will be available for purchase at the Kia Connect Store, which increases torque and facilitates a faster zero to 60 mph time of just 5.3 seconds. Once again, no range estimate was provided for the AWD model.

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EV Maker Lucid Plans Widespread Layoffs In Effort To Cut Costs

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Beyond the letter sent to staff, Lucid shared some details about the upcoming layoffs in a regulatory filing, the most notable of which is that it will eat $24 million to $30 million as a result of its restructuring due to expenses like severance pay for laid-off workers. Executives aren’t immune from these cutoffs nor are contractors. Assuming everything goes according to plan, the entire debacle will be wrapped up by the end of the company’s second quarter. 

The move isn’t surprising in light of Lucid’s February 2023 announcement that it needs to reduce its spending. The company was hit by a sharp drop in demand for its luxury EV in recent months, and it entered the new year in a weak position amid the wider economic uncertainty many face in our largely post-pandemic days. 

The news came only a few weeks after the company’s biggest competitor, Tesla, announced sharp price cuts that made its already popular EVs even more attractive to consumers. The automotive market was hit particularly hard by the supply chain disruption that occurred during the height of the pandemic, leaving some new cars benched while used car prices climbed and manufacturers made hard compromises in the name of getting units out the door. 

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Traditional Custom Keyboard With Future In Sight

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If the form factor of the Compact Touch appeals but the price is too high, there are some alternatives to consider. The first would be the HHKB, the very first keyboard line with this particular key arrangement. The latest HHKB Hybrid costs $266.62, uses its signature Topre electrostatic rubber domes instead of mechanical key switches, and adds USB-C and Bluetooth connectivity. It doesn’t have an internal rechargeable battery but uses two AA batteries for power. It can pair up to four devices, and switch between them with keyboard shortcuts.

If wireless isn’t necessary, Mode Designs’ Envoy is a 65% form factor in aluminum or polycarbonate chassis, with customizable options for accent pieces, case color, weight, plate, and PCB. It starts from $189 without keycaps, switches, or stabilizers. This keyboard also has a futuristic design, a rubber mounting system that can be adjusted to be firmer or more flexy, and is programmable using QMK or VIA, the two most widely used firmware sets for custom mechanical keyboards.

The Keychron Q2 costs $209.99 with keycaps, switches, and stabilizers and has a 65% layout with an island-style arrow cluster, multiple color options, and the option for a rotary encoder. It uses a double gasket design for a softer typing feel with a little flex, and also uses QMK or VIA to reprogram its keys. It’s also available as a barebones keyboard for $179.99, but it’s worth getting the fully-built version even if you plan on changing the switches or keycaps. 

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