This superhero narrative is the secret engine of almost every book beloved by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. Travis Kalanick, founder of Uber, was a devotee of Ayn Rand, whose protagonist is at war with society. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was a fan of “Star Trek” since childhood, where Captain Kirk made every decision and took charge of every landing party. In 2016, Donald J. Peter Thiel, the venture capitalist who supports Trump, loves “The Lord of the Rings,” an epic story where a handful of heroes save the world. Mr. Thiel’s corporate names (Palantir, Mithril, Valar) are taken from the story.
Mr. Altman, to his credit, has supported An extensive reading list This goes far beyond the books written by Mr. Thiel, his friends in Silicon Valley. He recommended another favorite of Wally’s, Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” science fiction series, which is once again about how a charismatic and visionary scholar and his mostly male henchmen can save everyone, in this case 25 million planets.
But the path to becoming Gandalf or Captain Picard in real life is fraught with risks.
Theranos’s Elizabeth Holmes models herself after Mr. Jobs. When she couldn’t get her blood-testing technique to work, she simply pretended to do so. Adam Neumann promises to reinvent the office experience with WeWork. It declared bankruptcy two weeks ago, although Mr. Newman managed to emerge wealthy. Sam Bankman-Fried, the bright promise of cryptocurrency, will be sentenced in March for fraud. Elon Musk hasn’t helped his reputation or his bank account by buying Twitter, now called X.
For Mr. Altman, this past weekend may have been a personal pinnacle. Despite all the talk of AI taking over jobs, it has suddenly become an essential figure in all of technology. A post on x Eric Schmidt, Google’s former chief executive, captured some of the mood, and didn’t lose sight of the fact that Google is in a fierce competition with OpenAI:
“Sam Altman is my hero. He built a company worth $90 billion from nothing and changed our collective world forever. I can’t wait to see what he does next. I and billions of other people will benefit from his future work – it’s going to be absolutely incredible.
That’s Jobs-level praise. Perhaps wisely, Mr. Altman turned down all the offers he received to finance his next start-up. Microsoft, the largest investor in OpenAI, announced late Sunday that it would be there. He will now work for others.