As of 12:01pm PST on the fateful Friday of November 17, 2023, a veritable unknown by the name of Tasha McCauley held a full 25% of the voting power in one of the world’s most valuable start-ups, OpenAI. At the time of the meltdown, OpenAI was about to close an equity round securing its valuation at around $88 billion USD.
It appears that on that day, an alliance consisting of McCauley, Helen Toner (CSET), Adam d’Angelo (Quora) and Ilya Sutskever (OpenAI) performed a poorly thought out coup d’etat, and first decapitated the board by removing co-founders Altman and Brockman (with a 4-2 vote, 2 in absentia).
The four then followed up immediately after with a majority vote (at least 3-1) to fire CEO Altman. This was all done, apparently, without any warning whatsoever to employees, executives, customers, partners or investors. In fact, it appeared to take all of Silicon Valley, and soon thereafter the world, by total surprise.
So who is Tasha McCauley, and how did she come to amass such power in such a time of crisis? Where she is mentioned at all in the press, she is mentioned as a “tech entrepreneur.” Hmmmmm.
IMPORTANT NOTE: While the sacking of Altman clearly brought unintended consequences well beyond most of our imaginations, it remains a fact that, as of Tuesday 11/21, no-one actually knows the specific reasons why the board dismissed him. We are all making best guesses and conjectures, but until those facts are known, we are all guessing. I am saying this because (in AI circle terminology) there remains a non-zero chance that the board actually did their job, and acted in the best interests of humanity — which, unlike a for-profit corp, is their job.
IMPORTANT NOTE 2: In case you missed it, Sam Altman himself consciously and deliberately formed OpenAI as a non-profit. AND formed the Board of Directors of the non-profit to have NO FINANCIAL INTEREST in OpenAI: not via monetary compensation, and not via any form of equity or stock options. This was intended to assure that the board would not be swayed by financial incentive to violate its charter & mission. So think what you may, but we can say this: the board is not profiting from these decisions in any material way.
The same cannot be said about OpenAI employees, who have already had two opportunities for massive, six-, seven-, even eight-figure paydays, with the secondary market sales of employee stock grants across the years.
Now, back to our main story: Who is Tasha?
…Aha! After a trivial amount of Google searching, this video did surface, which shows her as the CEO of Fellow Robots in 2015, promoting the launch of their first telepresence robots. It sports a respectable 41.4k views:
Tasha McCauley’s Career
Various other snippets have, in fact, appeared across the OpenAI press, one at a time, and we’ve attempted to collate them here:
- “tech entrepreneur” & “robotics expert”
- “adjunct senior management scientist” at RAND
- RAND Corporation (Santa Monica, CA)
- this piece courtesy NY Times
- CEO (previously) of GeoSim Systems
- GeoSim Systems produces 3D digital twins of entire cities for municipal planners & governments
- founder (previously) of Fellow Robots
- Fellow Robots appears to have been a conceptual play to place some form of telepresence robotics platform for placement into retail environments
- ex-Faculty member, Singularity University
- director of Autodesk Simulation Lab
- colleague Dan Barry
- on the UK board of Effective Ventures Foundation,
- a group affiliated with Effective Altruism, (?possibly bad?)
- this piece courtesy WIRED
- on the advisory board of Center for the Governance of AI
- a British-founded international non-profit
- alongside fellow OpenAI director Helen Toner
- signer of the Asilomar AI Principles,
- a set of 23 AI governance principles published in 2017
- NOTE: YT considers this a good sign.
- affiliates her with Max Tegmark (good!)
- minor (involuntary?) celebrity
Tasha McCauley Personal & Education
- born 1981 (age 42)
- Los Angeles, CA, USA
- married to Joseph Gordon-Levitt (of Inception fame)
- 2 children
- EE • Stanford
- Masters, Robotics • CMU
- MBA • USC Marshall School of Business (2013-14)
Joseph Gordon Levitt and Tasha Mccauley
The roboticist and the movie star appear to have met around September 2013, and were married in a private ceremony in December of the following year. She gave birth to their first son in 2015, and a second in 2017.
Fellow Robots: Retail Telepresence
Tasha McCauley served as CEO of Fellow Robots for several years, apparently ending her tenure around 2019. It appears the Fellow Robots produced several models and actually got prototypes into retail locations. They were tablet based robotics platforms for retail environments. Example:
Social Media Profiles
aaaaand… that’s about it.
So Sam & Greg got axed.
And now it’s Tasha McCauley, Helen Toner, Adam, and Ilya:
…and then there were four… deciding the fate of the future of AGI.
Strange times, indeed.
- OpenAI: Founding, Funding, Origin & Board Members
- Sam Altman : The Next
Bill GatesSteve Jobs?
- The Prematurely Reported Death of Sam Altman
- AI Religious Wars: Decels vs. r/Acc
photo: Jeff Vespa/Getty Images — “