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Sam Altman at The Altar of Strong Opinion

Let's hear one side of the story.

By Scott ChristensonPublished 3 months ago Updated 3 months ago 6 min read
AI rendering of Sam Altman eating my favorite sandwich

I had lunch at McDonald’s last week. I was there mostly because I love the Fillet-O-Fish. I order it each time I visit. It tastes melt-in-your-mouth amazing, and it's healthier than the burgers, there’s a bit of fish buried inside all that deep-fried breading.

In an alternate world, one in which I cared deeply about strangers, I would stand in front of a McDonald’s and tell the people entering that they should also order the Fish Fillet. Extol its virtues. Plead with them to never order the Big Mac, that monstrosity drenched in an orange sauce named after a group of islands no one can find on a map.

Listening to me would be for their own good.

Yet, though I harbor some measure of benevolence toward strangers, am passionate about the filet-o-fish, have a firm measure of conviction in my beliefs, I do not ambush people in line who are about to order at McDonald's.

This week, at the fast food restaurant of News & Social Media, people are shouting at us again.

“They really screwed up firing Sam Altman!”

“Sam Altman is already back at Open AI. All those idiots who voted him out are going to get fired!”

The underlying message is how could “they be so stupid”.

The majority of these pundits don’t know anything about AI, or about programming, either. I suspect I know more about the internal workings of a fish filet sandwich than they do about the mechanics of corporate governance—we both know nothing.

I'm perhaps in a unique position politically. I have never voted in an American election, and have lived overseas the past 15 years, so perhaps I'm a bit emotionally disconnected from the country and the issues of the place where I was born.

As an unaligned observer of social media the previous few years, to me, it feels like conservative minded people have an instinctual drive to choose whichever sides looks stronger or more powerful in any debate: Israel, Oil companies, the US border patrol. This week, Sam seems to be the star of the show.

A right-wing leaning type told me, “this must have been all the work of that liberal professor on the board [Helen Toner]. They are always against men making a profit.”

“That's probably true,” I agreed, being a people pleaser. “By the way, I also read that Sam Altman is openly gay.”

After a long pause, “Why does that matter?” (It usually mattered a lot to him in recent years.)

He stopped posting about Sam Altman. I felt like I did him a disservice, complicating this issue in a “good vs bad” debate, he was obviously passionate about (and which I am not).

I also find it ironic that mainstream liberal journalists, who just yesterday blasted headlines about the dangers of AI to humanity, now blast headlines about the dangers of humans to the world's leading AI company. I sometimes point out inconsistencies to liberals, too. Maybe that's why I have fewer friends these days.

The Microsoft Connection

A Twitter user who doesn't like Helen Toner's voice

Wasn’t it just a few years ago the pundits of Twitter (badly renamed X), were saying Bill Gates was the financier of a globalist secret society to take over the world, and is probably uploading our DNA to the alien mothership with his pro-vaccine initiatives?

Suddenly, after a woman was involved in the sacking of a male CEO, they seem to be on board with Microsoft and the alien takeover.

After pitching in his influence to return Sam Altman to leadership of the firm, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said he was “encouraged by the changes to the OpenAI board”.

Sam Altman had nice things to say about “msft” and “satya”.

genz doesnt like capital letters

2-degrees of Separation - A Conflict of Interest Statement:

I worked with Satya Nadella for 1 year as a fellow intern at System 5, a small software company, in Milwaukee in 1990. I don't remember meeting him or talking to him, even though I've been told I have. I hope Satya remembers things differently, I'm here for you if you need me, Satya. [Note to past self: Get out of your own head, and try to pay attention to the people around you.]

A Very Long Boring Research Paper

Back to the main topic. Very few people want to discuss the spark that started the conflict between Sam Altman and the Open AI board. A very long boring research paper by Helen Toner. When debating the outcome of the world's leading AI company, why bothering discussing 66 pages about the far-reaching implications of AI.

I did a cursory scan for the exciting bits, so you don't have to. Here’s an excerpt. A note to Helen Toner (in case she lands a big job, and wants to hire me some day): if you are an Open AI board member, directly talking up the company’s main competitor, Anthropic, was not the most clever move.

Decoding Intentions, Andrew Imbrie, Owen Daniels and Helen Toner. (October 2023)

Soccer is a Religion

A few weeks ago, everyone who never followed the Middle East previously, was giving you their top 10 reasons why you MUST support either Israel or Hamas. So maybe Sam Altman is just another soccer ball to kick back and forth between two teams of keyboard athletes. I feel it’s become more than a sport, and is closer to a religion these days:

Rules about Offering (a Topic) to the Altar of Strong Opinion:

  1. It must be about something IMPORTANT.
  2. It should be about something FAR AWAY. (in the Middle East, or DC or Silicon Valley, rather than suburban Ohio)
  3. It must be something easy to understand. “Trump is a crook.” “Biden is a crook.”
  4. It must be a binary decision, TRUE or FALSE, option A or B.

Curiously, many of the people who work at Open AI seem to be very flexible with their own opinions. Ilya Sutskever (the man who fired Sam Altman over a Google Meet call), when the weight of public opinion turned against him, said the whole thing was a misunderstanding (the apology not accepted). Sam Altman also seems to be quite flexible, sending a Thanksgiving message today, to one of the other board members who terminated him last week, Adam D’Angelo (he kept his job, does he have Polaroids?). I admire their ability to pivot so quickly. Maybe because Ilya and Sam are doing something important themselves, they are immune to the rules of strong opinions.

After Accepting an Offering from the Altar of Strong Opinion:

  1. You must be 100% committed to the cause of the week. No maybes, or I need more information, or saying anything about there being 2-sides to every story.
  2. You must never admit that the other side is human, trying their best, or that virtually all humans are embedded with empathy for others.
  3. If you are proven wrong, you must delete your relevant social media history, refuse to discuss it further, and immediately locate another far-away event of world shaping significance to take a stand in.

Why do people worship at the Altar of Strong Opinion?

You can make your mark on history through being one of thousands of people that have expressed a really strong opinion, on someone important doing something important, that might be history, one day.

By Georgiana Pop (Avram) on Unsplash


About the Creator

Scott Christenson

Born and raised in Milwaukee WI, living in Hong Kong. Hoping to share some of my experiences w short story & non-fiction writing. Have a few shortlisted on Reedsy:

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Comments (3)

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  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarran3 months ago

    Lol, I found this whole thing so funny! I love the way you wrote it. My favourite was the part about the Thousand Islands sauce! 🤣🤣🤣🤣

  • Hannah Moore3 months ago

    Hmm. I think I need more information before I can agree ot disagree...

  • A random rant, please ignore if you disagree with anything.

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