SAN FRANCISCO — For years, Mira Murati has worked behind the scenes at OpenAI, overseeing the development and delivery of revolutionary products such as ChatGPT and DALL-E. Now she is stepping into the limelight as its interim CEO.
Murati, 34, was elevated to the top position at the high-profile company Friday when OpenAI’s board of directors ousted Sam Altman, the company’s co-founder and CEO. The company said that Murati had a “unique skill set” and would provide “a seamless transition while it conducts a formal search for a permanent CEO.”
Although she has carried the title of chief technology officer since last year, current and former employees said Murati had been functioning as the company’s head of operations. She made sure that its engineers developed versions of ChatGPT on schedule. She also handled the company’s relationship with Microsoft, an investor and partner who has deployed OpenAI’s technology, and she helped shape its artificial intelligence policy in Washington and Europe.
“She has a demonstrated ability to assemble teams with technical expertise, commercial acumen, and a deep appreciation for the importance of the mission,” Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, wrote in a piece about her for Time magazine. “As a result, Mira has helped build some of the most exciting AI technologies we’ve ever seen.”
Born in Albania and educated in Canada, Murati is a mechanical engineer by training who built a hybrid race car as an undergraduate student at Dartmouth College. She joined OpenAI in 2018 after stints at Tesla, where she played a key role in the development of the Model X car, and Leap Motion, a startup that developed a computing system to track hand and finger motions.
Murati said that her work at Tesla exposed her to AI and inspired her to look for a job in that field. OpenAI hired her as its vice president of applied AI and partnerships. At the time, the company was a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring that artificial general intelligence benefited all of humanity. It later restructured itself as a for-profit company so it could raise the huge amounts of money needed to build its AI technologies.
“I thought that fundamentally, if you’re building intelligence, it’s such a core unit in the universe that it affects everything,” Murati said in August during an event hosted by Andreessen Horowitz, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm. “What else is there to do more inspiring than elevate and increase the collective intelligence of humanity?”
OpenAI was overseen by a group of senior leaders that included Altman; Greg Brockman, its former chair; and Wojciech Zaremba, a Polish-born AI researcher who was also among the company’s founders. Murati, who was a member of the leadership team, would execute the team’s decisions across the company.
She assumed responsibility for the distribution of the image generator, DALL-E, and text generator, ChatGPT, which attracted hundreds of millions of users after its introduction last year. As ChatGPT and DALL-E took off, she made appearances on “The Daily Show,” Bloomberg TV, and at several conferences.
“It’s very important to bring the public along, bring these technologies in the public consciousness, but in a way that’s responsible and safe,” Murati told “The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah last year.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.