Along with the rest of the world, I have been fascinated lately by OpenAI, the company behind GPT-3, DALL-E, and most recently ChatGPT.
The company’s founder, Sam Altman, also ran Y Combinator, the startup accelerator that launched AirBnB, Dropbox, Reddit, and many more. I’ve highlighted three pieces of Sam Altman’s advice and wisdom that resonated with me.
Approach innovation by letting people chase their interests
Their research approach at OpenAI is to just let people work on whatever interest them as long as it moves Artificial General Intelligence forward. And then they look for whatever is most effective or working the best.
They set up robotic arms driven by AI, which could learn and improve through iteration. Ultimately they gave up on the experiment due to hardware failures (burned out circuits and motors).
Proof for all those hardware engineers that robots pose more challenges than inventing artificial intelligence!
Many of the earliest inventions came from research labs that did just this, such as Bell Labs. This sounds refreshing as compared to my experience in R&D team’s which tends to be project driven.
** See my book notes for more – The Idea Factory by Jon Gertner **
Focus on building with conviction
Sam Altman served as President of Y Combinator for five years, advising many successful startups. When people came to him and saying “I want to make $100 million in crypto so I can go start a rocket company” he would scold them.
Don’t defer your dreams! Just start the rocket company today, otherwise you’re unlikely to succeed at either dream.
When you pitch your product or idea either to investors or other team members, your sincerity shines through. People with any bit of intelligence can clearly see if you’re faking it.
Take more risks, Ask more questions
Things in life are rarely as risky as they seem. Most people are too risk-averse, and so most advice is biased too much towards conservative paths.
Another thing Sam Altman says is that he knows lots of people smarter than him, but not many that are more curious than him. And that’s a unique advantage.
Parting advice – make sure you surround yourself with people that make you more ambitious and encourage you to be curious and ask questions.