Who is Paul Nakasone, OpenAI’s newest board member?


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OpenAI has added retired U.S. Army General and National Security Agency Director Paul Nakasone to its board of directors. It’s latest move at the artificial intelligence firm that’s been dealing with continued reshuffling since CEO Sam Altman was temporarily ousted last fall, including a number of recent high-profile departures.

Nakasone will also join the OpenAI Board’s Safety and Security Committee, a new group that it says is “responsible for making recommendations to the full Board on critical safety and security decisions for all OpenAI projects and operations.”

Here’s what to know about Nakasone:

Nakasone was a career Army officer

His interest in the digital age was sparked in the post-9/11 era, according to a 2020 profile in Wired. He served in both command and staff positions across all levels of the Army with assignments with cyber units in the U.S., Korea, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

He was a Trump appointee

Former President Donald Trump in 2018 tapped Nakasone to lead the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command. He came into the role as morale at the NSA was reportedly suffering amid a series of leaks regarding the agency’s secret hacking tools.

Much of Nakasone’s time spent leading Cyber Command involved countering foreign efforts to meddle in American elections. Nakasone created a so-called Russia Small Group, consisting of experts within Cyber Command and the NSA, to home in on Russia’s attempts to interfere in elections.

He ended up as the longest serving leader of the U.S. Army Cyber Command. Gen. Timothy Haugh took the lead in February.

He’s well-respected in D.C.

Nakasone has long been widely responded throughout the cybersecurity and military communities. There’s nobody in the security community, broadly, that’s more respected,” Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) told Axios.

That Washington experience will likely be tremendously beneficial to OpenAI as the company works to build public trust over its ability to safely build toward a goal of super intelligence.

Nakasone also arrives at a time when OpenAI is under heightened scrutiny over its artificial intelligence systems and the safeguards in place. That concern was amplified recently, after a handful of current and former employees signed a public letter warning that the technology poses risks to humanity. “AI companies have strong financial incentives to avoid effective oversight,” the letter reads, “and we do not believe bespoke structures of corporate governance are sufficient to change this.”

Cofounder Ilya Sutskever, who helped lead a safety team that worked to ensure artificial general intelligence didn’t turn on humans, left the company in May. Jan Leike, the team’s other leader, also quit and shared a lengthy thread on X that criticized the company and leadership.

“Artificial Intelligence has the potential to have huge positive impacts on people’s lives, but it can only meet this potential if these innovations are securely built and deployed,“ OpenAI Board Chair Bret Taylor said in a statement. “General Nakasone’s unparalleled experience in areas like cybersecurity will help guide OpenAI in achieving its mission of ensuring artificial general intelligence benefits all of humanity.” 


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