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How a Jewish programmer from Chicago created ChatGPT


His creation scares billions - because it is able to turn the uprising of machines from a Hollywood movie into our reality. How a Jewish programmer from Chicago created ChatGPT - the main monster of our time.

The other day, Sam Altman, the creator of the ChatGPT chat bot, visited Israel at the invitation of the country's President Yitzhak Herzog. In addition to meeting with the head of the Jewish state, he attended a conference at Tel Aviv University and visited one of the local research centers. And at the same time, it got everyone's attention. And this is understandable: people like Altman are creating the future right before our eyes.

Sam Altman has everything you need in case of a nuclear war - antibiotics and batteries, weapons and potassium iodide. And, of course, Israeli army gas masks. Sam does not consider the apocalyptic scenario to be fiction and prefers to be prepared for it. But ironically, some alarmists believe that he himself is the creator of this new apocalypse. His creation ChatGPT demonstrated the power of artificial intelligence (AI) so vividly and vividly that billions of people are excited about them, while at the same time they are a little worried that the uprising of the machines could turn from a Hollywood plot into reality.

With Israeli President Yitzhak Herzog


By the way, just the other day, at the end of May, more than 350 scientists wrote an open letter, where they called AI a potential threat to humanity. It is curious that, among others, this letter was signed by the creator of this intellect, Sam Altman, which indicates his considerable sense of humor.

Altman did not come to world fame immediately, but the makings were visible even in childhood. At the age of 8 he got a computer and learned to program in BASIC. For the mother, this was a relief. Born in Chicago in 1985, Sam, according to his mother, was a pronounced extrovert with an incredible need for communication. And with the advent of the computer, she breathed freely - now her son did not require 100% of her attention.


The boy went deep into programming and, naturally, decided to devote himself to computer science. To do this, he entered Stanford University, but almost immediately disappointment came: Sam had pumped so much by that time that studying at the university seemed to him a waste of time. And in the second year, he decided not to sit out his pants on the university bench and quit Stanford.

But he already had a brilliant idea in his head that needed to be implemented immediately: to create a mobile application in which users could share their location. She came to his mind thanks to the same extraversion: once, after a couple at the university, he wanted to see his friends, but there was no one nearby. So he thought: what if we create an application in which this can be seen!


Sam knocked out two classmates and sat down with them to work. He worked like crazy, trying to save time even at the expense of sleep and food - he had to hurry, competitors were not dozing, and such ideas were in the air at that time. So for several weeks the developer ate only instant noodles, sometimes alternating it with ice cream. Such a diet did not lead to anything good: Sam fell ill with scurvy.

However, this did not stop him. He managed not only to write code, but also to communicate with potential investors. And not without success: in the first round, he raised more than $ 30 million, and the application itself, called Loopt, was estimated at $ 175 million. Sam, his partners and investors were already rubbing their hands in anticipation of superprofits. Really, what could go wrong?


But the catch turned out to be in the users themselves: as it turned out, people were not at all eager to give out their location, and sometimes they entered false data, which completely deprived the application of meaning. The idea didn't work out the way Sam expected, and he ended up selling his startup to Green Dot for $43.4 million.

After selling Loopt, he decided to try his hand at venture capital and founded his own fund, Hydrazine Capital. But the role of the investor quickly disappointed him again. “You look for a company that is doomed to succeed, with or without you, and then you beg them to take your money,” Sam said. In addition, he did not like "being in opposition to the entrepreneur," which the role of investor required of him to some extent.


In parallel with his attempts at independent investments, Sam began cooperation with a large startup accelerator, Y Combinator, in those years. Its founders, Paul Graham and Jessica Livingston, would later become Sam's close friends. And having retired in 2014, they will offer him to head Y Combinator. “We didn't see any other alternatives. We just realized that it had to be Sam,” said Jessica Livingston. And her husband recalled that in response to the offer, Altman smiled the happy smile of a man “who threw a paper ball across the room into a trash can and hit it.”

One of the first companies Altman partnered with in his new role was self-driving car maker Cruise. And the investment of $ 3 million paid off incredibly: the startup was subsequently sold to General Motors Corporation for a fabulous $ 1.25 billion. And Sam received the nickname “Startup Yoda” - in honor of the wisest Jedi Master from the legendary Star Wars saga George Lucas .


Despite the big success, Sam wanted to move on, and in 2015 he, along with the already very famous investor Elon Musk, founded OpenAI, a non-profit company that was supposed to develop AI. It's funny that the founders initially wanted to protect themselves from the risks posed by modern technology, since Musk feared that in the future AI would surpass and displace humans. And the startup had two initial goals. The first thing is to survive from the market of competitors who could create "wrong" and dangerous AI. And only then to create a “correct”, friendly and safe AI.

But in 2018, Musk resigned from the company's board of directors, and a year later he left OpenAI altogether. The reasons for the separation of partners are still shrouded in darkness. According to the company's official statement, this was done "to avoid conflicts of interest." But the fact is that the "divorce" passed peacefully and without scandals. And after Musk really founded his own company X.AI, which he positions as a competitor to OpenAI.


Whether Musk really decided to compete with Altman or is it just a PR move, time will tell. In any case, while Sam tries himself in new areas. So, he caught fire with the energy of the future and has already invested $ 375 million in Helion Energy startup. The creators of Helion Energy plan to produce clean and inexpensive energy using thermonuclear fusion. As Altman writes in his blog, if successful, this technology could provide electricity to the entire planet in just 10 years, and the cost of a kilowatt will be 1 cent. “This is the most promising approach to nuclear fusion,” he says despite the skepticism of some scientists. However, Helion Energy has already signed large commercial contracts. In particular, she agreed with Microsoft on the supply of electricity starting in 2028.


However, Sam generates ideas no worse than ChatGPT generates texts. There is no doubt that we will see many more of his undertakings. Moreover, he himself is burning with the desire to create the future, and for this he wants to live as long as possible.

Now he is 38 years old, but he, in his own words, has already thought about how fleeting life is. The reason was the untimely death of his father. So Sam started investing in longevity startups. For example, he invested $180 million in Retro Biosciences, which studies cellular processes in order to slow down aging. At the same time, Sam put his name on the waiting list of Netcome, a startup that is working on digitizing the brain and then transferring information to the cloud. If the creators of the startup succeed, the person will continue to live after death - but in digital form. A "ticket to immortality" costs only $10,000. But that's only for now.


Of course, there are no guarantees of successful implementation of the idea. Sam is aware of this, and therefore resorts to more traditional methods - primarily a healthy lifestyle. And friends sometimes call him a “cyberchondriac”: at the slightest ailment, he, like many of us, begins to search for information on the Internet and, as a result, makes himself some kind of disappointing diagnosis. During the pandemic, Sam had a new fix idea: he began to carefully disinfect vegetables. And he himself realized that he had gone too far, because "they began to smell like a pool."

Sometimes Sam is even reproached for utopian ideas to achieve immortality, but he himself denies them. “I don’t plan to live forever—that’s a cartoonish exaggeration,” he explains. “I just want people to get another ten years of full and healthy life.”