Who is Mira Murati, the new OpenAI boss replacing Sam Altman?

The Albanian mechanical engineering graduate spent time at Tesla before taking on a leading role in the development of ChatGPT

Mira Murati said 'there's not going to be a more important technology that we will build than generative AI'. Bloomberg
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Sam Altman, who led OpenAI's sensational rise thanks to ChatGPT, is out. In his place, on an interim basis, is a relatively low-profile figure – Mira Murati.

Ms Murati, who spent several years in the background while Mr Altman fronted the fast-rising company, has been thrust into the spotlight at a time when the generative artificial intelligence race continues to heat up.

Born in Albania, she won a high school scholarship in Canada before she attended Dartmouth College, where she graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering in 2012.

In a recent interview, Ms Murati said that she was very interested and mathematics and physics, both of which she would pursue “relentlessly”.

Over time, she said her interest in these fields would grow from the theoretical space to “actually building things”.

Her career would take off in 2013 after she joined Elon Musk's Tesla, where she helped in the development of the dual-motor Model S, the Model X Sport Utility Vehicle and Autopilot, the company's AI-powered driving software.

After a three-year stint at Tesla, she joined Leap Motion, a start-up that developed a computer input device that supports hand and finger motions. The company was acquired by Ultraleap in 2019.

In 2018, Ms Murati joined OpenAI. She said she was drawn to the company because she believed “there's not going to be a more important technology that we will build than [generative AI]”.

Throughout her OpenAI career, she has played a crucial role in the development and distribution of ChatGPT and Dall-E, the text-to-image models developed by the company.

She has been described as having played a “critical role” in OpenAI's “evolution into a global AI leader” owing to her “unique skill set”, the company said after announcing its “leadership transition”.

“Given her long tenure and close engagement with all aspects of the company, including her experience in AI governance and policy, the board believes she is uniquely qualified for the role and anticipates a seamless transition while it conducts a formal search for a permanent CEO,” OpenAI said.

She was named in the Time 100 Next list for 2023, in which Microsoft chairman and chief executive Satya Nadella described her as having had a “very impressive career as a leader in the technology industry”.

Mr Nadella lauded her “dedication to democratising AI, her ability to bring together diverse teams and the fearlessness with which she tackles technical challenges”, noting that she has helped build the company from a start-up to one of the most important AI companies in the world.

“As a prominent leader in one of the fastest-growing industries, she has a demonstrated ability to assemble teams with technical expertise, commercial acumen and a deep appreciation for the importance of mission,” he said.

US Senate holds hearing on regulating AI

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Mr Nadella doubled down on that following Mr Altman's being removed, saying Microsoft has a “long-term agreement with OpenAI with full access to everything we need to deliver on our innovation agenda and an exciting product road map, and remain committed to our partnership, and to Mira and the team”.

Ms Murati is an advocate of regulating AI, batting for the involvement of governments, regulators and other industry players to shape the future of the technology that, in some aspects, has become polarising.

“There is a tonne of work that needs to happen here,” she said.

Updated: November 18, 2023, 7:31 AM