Turmoil in AI Land: Uncertainty R Us

November 21, 2023

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

It is now Tuesday, November 21, 2023. I learned this morning on the “Pivot” podcast that one of the co-hosts is the “best technology reporter.” I read a number of opinions about the high school science club approach to managing a multi-billion dollar alleged valued at lots of money last Friday, November 17, 2023, and today valued at much less money. I read some of the numerous “real news” stories on Hacker News, Techmeme, and Xitter, and learned:

  1. Gee, it was a mistake
  2. Sam AI-Man is working at Microsoft
  3. Sam AI-Man is not working at Microsoft
  4. Microsoft is ecstatic that opportunities are available
  5. Ilya Sutskever will become a blue-chip consultant specializing in Board-level governance
  6. OpenAI is open because it is business as usual in Sillycon Valley.


The AI ringmaster has issued an instruction or prompt to the smart software. The smart software does not obey. What’s happening is that not only are inputs not converted to the desired actions, the entire circus audience is not sure which is more entertaining, the software or the manager. Thanks, Microsoft Copilot. I gave up and used one of the good enough images.

“Firing Sam Altman Hasn’t Worked Out for OpenAI’s Board” reports:

Whether Altman ultimately stays at Microsoft or comes back to OpenAI, he’ll be more powerful than he was last week. And if he wants to rapidly develop and commercialize powerful AI models, nobody will be in a position to stop him. Remarkably, one of the 500 employees who signed Monday’s OpenAI employee letter is Ilya Sutskever, who has had a profound change of heart since he voted to oust Altman on Friday.

Okay, maybe Ilya Sutskever will not become a blue chip consultant. That’s okay, just mercurial.

Several observations:

  1. Smart software causes bright people to behave in sophomoric ways. I have argued for many years that many of the techno-feudalistic outfits are more like high school science clubs than run-of-the-mill high school sophomores. Intelligence coupled with a poorly developed judgment module causes some spectacular management actions.
  2. Poor Google must be uncomfortable as its struggles on the tenterhooks which have snagged its corporate body. Is Microsoft going to going to be the Big Dog in smart software? Is Sam AI-Man going to do something new to make life for Googzilla more uncomfortable than it already is? Is Google now faced with a crisis about which its flocks of legal eagles, its massive content marketing machine, and its tools for shaping content cannot do much to seize the narrative.
  3. Developers who have embraced the idea of OpenAI as the best partner in the world have to consider that their efforts may be for naught? Where do these wizards turn? To Microsoft and the Softie ethos? To the Zuck and his approach? To Google and its reputation for terminating services like snipers? To the French outfit with offices near some very good restaurants. (That doesn’t sound half bad, does it?)

I am not sure if Act I has ended or if the entire play has ended. After a short intermission, there will be more of something.

Stephen E Arnold, November 21, 2023


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