Sam Altman: Who Is The OpenAI CEO Behind ChatGPT And What Is His Net Worth?
Sam Altman is the CEO of OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, and his net worth is estimated at $250 million dollars.
To many Americans, the name Sam Altman might not mean much. To the tech world, though, the name Sam Altman carries some heft to it. Today, Altman holds the title of CEO of Open AI, an artificial intelligence journey that has had many stops along the way.
THE SAM ALTMAN IS 38 YEARS OLD
Sam Altman hails from Chicago, Illinois, being born on April 22, 1985. From Chicago, the Altmans relocated to St. Louis, Missouri, where Sam grew up. He attended the private, non-sectarian college preparatory John Burroughs School during his high school years before heading out west to give Stanford University a try. Although Stanford is one of the leading universities across the nation, Altman eventually dropped out.
SAM ALTMAN GOT HIS FIRST COMPUTER AT EIGHT YEARS OLD
Sam Altman’s interest in technology came at an early age. When he was eight years old, he got his first computer and went to work.
“For my eighth birthday,” Altman told Esquire in a 2014 interview, “my parents got me a Mac LC2. And, you know, it was like… It was, like, $2,200 in 1993 dollars. It was, like, this horrifically expensive thing, that was not that good. 40 MB hard drive. And then we put it in my bedroom, and I remember about it, it was this dividing line in my life: before I had a computer and after.”
Altman then put it in perspective, comparing life to before cell phones and after. “Before cell phones, your friends had to call your house, your parents knew about it, there was no text messaging. Then, all of a sudden, it flipped to this thing where everyone had this private thing, where it was their own life, their parents didn’t know what was going on, they could coordinate out on the go, they could talk to their friends all the time.”
HE’S BEEN OPEN ABOUT HIS LGBTQ STATUS
One thing Sam Altman realized at an early age as the internet began to develop, was that it was a way for him to deal with who he was. “I grew up in the Midwest, sort of struggling with being gay, and I didn’t have anyone I could talk to about that. So having the Internet was this unbelievable thing. Just having the human connection, where you can talk about something that no one from your real-world would understand, was just unbelievably powerful.”
A few years back, Sam Altman spoke with Tech Pride about how the internet helped him come out as gay. “A lot of LGBTQ people had experiences like I had, like the internet was really formative for us. I met many of my friends, and learned way more on the internet than I ever learned in school I think.”
Altman then reflected on when he was able to come out online. “I remember like it was yesterday, with such clarity, like the first time I told people online, I was twelve. I mean, what like a terrifying but electrifying thing, that just sort of cemented the power of the internet for me because I never could have told people in person. It was just outside the realm of possibility. But I found this community as like a young teenager, and that was awesome.”
He was 16 when he finally came out to his parents. “Growing up gay in the Midwest in the 2000s was not the most awesome thing,” he said to The New Yorker. “And finding AOL chat rooms was transformative. Secrets are bad when you’re eleven or twelve.”
You can count his mother, Connie Gibstine, a dermatologist by trade, as one who was surprised by his admission. “Sam had always struck me as just sort of unisexual and tech-y.” The love for her son never wavered.
SAM ALTMAN DROPPED OUT OF STANFORD UNIVERSITY
Not only did Sam Altman know who he was at an early age, but he also knew what he wanted to do for a living: work with computers and computer programming. So, he decided to follow that dream and go to Stanford University to study computer science. He felt that Stanford would bring him many steps closer to his goal.
What he found out, instead, was that college wasn’t for him. He dropped out of Stanford after two years. Instead of computer science, Sam Altman became the co-founder and CEO of Loopt, a Mountain View location-based social networking app that allowed smartphone users to selectively share their location with other people.
Altman and Loopt gave it a good run, but in 2012, it was sold to Green Dot as the app had a hard time finding traction.
HE BECAME A PARTNER AND PRESIDENT OF Y COMBINATOR
After the Loopt experience, Sam Altman became a part-time partner with the tech startup accelerator, Y Combinator, starting in 2011. Not only was Altman moving on from Loopt, but he was also moving on from Nick Sivo, who was the other co-founder of Loopt and someone Altman had been dating for nine years prior to Loopt being sold.
As a startup accelerator, Y Combinator has launched more than 4,000 companies. These include biggies like Reddit, Stripe, Airbnb, DoorDash, Dropbox, Instacart, Coinbase, and Quora. By 2014, Sam Altman was named president of Y Combinator.
Altman went to work immediately as president of the startup accelerator. Not only did his vision include expansion of the types of companies Y Combinator would help fund, but he also set a goal of being able to fund 1,000 companies per year. Moving forward, Altman announced in October 2015 YC Continuity, which was a growth-stage equity fund worth $700 million that invested in YC companies.
Also in 2015, Altman and YC turned their attention toward research. Y Combinator Research is a non-profit research lab that was involved with basic income, computing futures, education, and even the building of new cities. To give it a kick start, Altman donated $10 million. 2015 was a monumental year for Sam Altman. Along with all of his YC accomplishments, he was recognized by Forbes magazine as the top investor under 30.
SAM ALTMAN IS THE CEO OF OPENAI, AND OVERSEES CHATGPT
One thing for certain when it comes to Sam Altman, he does not rest on his laurels. He is a driven man, and that drive continues to pave the way for Altman to find new ventures. His newest is artificial intelligence by way of OpenAI, an artificial intelligence research lab. The goal of OpenAI is to ensure that the future of artificial intelligence is one that will benefit humanity rather than cause harm to it.
Since Altman has taken the reins as OpenAI CEO, he has been at odds with artificial intelligence doomsayer, Eliezer Yudkowsky. The latter has, for a number of years, been speaking out that AI will at some point not align itself with human values, thus deciding to wipe us out. His doomsday approach toward AI convinced Elon Musk to co-found OpenAI along with Sam Altman with the goal of creating a safer AI.
Billions have been raised, though Altman doesn’t see the doom and gloom quite like Yudkowsky, though he also doesn’t deny that there may be some rough patches in the future. “There will be scary moments as we move towards AGI [artificial general intelligence] -level systems, and significant disruptions, but the upsides can be so amazing that it’s well worth overcoming the great challenges to get there,” he penned in a December 2022 tweet.
He also followed that up with, “and we’ll see great benefits along the way – they will make ChatGPT look like a boring toy.” He continued on with a string of tweets. “in particular, there are going to be significant problems with the use of openai tech over time; we will do our best but will not successfully anticipate every issue.
He continued, “We will run a very tight feedback loop for improvement, and try to make our mistakes while the stakes are low.”
Finally, Sam Altman penned, “But it’s impossible to get this right with no contact with reality. we are learning so much from ChatGPT; it’s going to get a lot better, less annoying, and more useful fast.”
ChatGPT was launched in November 2022 and is an artificial intelligence chatbot. For those who are unfamiliar with chatbots, these are software applications designed to conduct an online conversation through text or text-to-speech instead of consumers talking to live human agents.
During its prototype launch, ChatGPT received high marks for its ability to provide articulate answers and detailed responses, but factual inaccuracy was identified as a major drawback.
While most chatbots are created to mimic a human conversation, there is much more to Altman’s ChatGPT. For instance, the program can write and debug computer programs. It can also compose teleplays, music, fairy tales, and student essays. If that isn’t enough, ChatGPT can answer test questions, write song lyrics and poetry, and plays games such as tic-tac-toe. It can also simulate an ATM.
Of course, ChatGPT has its limitations as well. Its main issue is called artificial intelligence hallucination, which causes the AI to produce “plausible-sounding but incorrect or nonsensical answers.”
It is obviously a work in progress, but one that Sam Altman firmly stands behind. By the number of heavy hitters backing OpenAI, it appears that Altman will have the funds to continue working on ChatGPT.
SAM ALTMAN’S NET WORTH IS ESTIMATED AT $250 MILLION
The website FINTY estimates Sam Altman’s net worth sitting right around $250 million. Of course, the way Altman does business, this can fluctuate both higher and lower. As an angel investor, Altman is well aware of the risk-reward aspect of the businesses he gets involved with.
WHERE DOES SAM ALTMAN GO FROM HERE?
For now, AI is where it’s at for Sam Altman. His belief is a better world and that AI can help make it so. He does, though, have other interests. “Well, I like racing cars,” Altman said via The New Yorker in a 2016 interview.
“I have five, including two McLarens and an old Tesla. I like flying rented planes all over California. Oh, and one odd one—I prep for survival.” Survival? Interesting, as this interview came well before the COVID pandemic.
“My problem is that when my friends get drunk they talk about the ways the world will end. After a Dutch lab modified the H5N1 bird-flu virus, five years ago, making it super contagious, the chance of a lethal synthetic virus being released in the next twenty years became, well, nonzero. The other most popular scenarios would be A.I. that attacks us and nations fighting with nukes over scarce resources.” Maybe Sam Altman was on to something back then.
“I try not to think about it too much,” Altman concluded. “But I have guns, gold, potassium iodide, antibiotics, batteries, water, gas masks from the Israeli Defense Force, and a big patch of land in Big Sur I can fly to.”
With that said, Altman is putting a big chunk of money where his interests lie. In this case, it is all about extending life expectancy. In fact, Altman believes so much in the startup, Retro Biosciences, he is throwing in $180 million of his own personal funds to see if they can live up to their word of an anti-aging breakthrough. It is said can add 10 healthy years to the human lifespan.
Altman knows it is a lot of money, especially since it his own, but he truly believes in what Retro Biosciences is doing. “It’s a lot. I basically just took all my liquid net worth and put it into these two companies.” The other company to which Altman is referring is called Helion Energy, a fusion power startup in which Altman is pouring $375 million into.
It is not known if that big patch of land in Big Sur actually saw the likes of Sam Altman during the pandemic, though it was ready and willing to take him in. Until that time, in case COVID didn’t force him underground, Altman will continue to push the boundaries of AI with the goal of making this world a better place. You can’t fault him for that.