Sam Altman Is the Biggest ‘Personality Hire.’ AI Is Full of Them.

Sam Altman Is the Biggest ‘Personality Hire.’ AI Is Full of Them.

Of all the world-altering things possible in our new AI era, one decidedly old-fashioned thing is not going anywhere: the personality hire.

A “personality hire” is someone who contributes to a team with soft skills like their dazzling charm. There’s a connotation that personality hires might not actually be good at their jobs, that they’re just fun to have around the office. But they arguably serve an incredibly important function in the health of an organization.

In the field of AI, it’s useful to lightly stretch the definition of “personality hire” to include someone who is really, really good at selling themselves, a product, or simply the idea of AI as this all-powerful entity that will completely change everything about life as we know it, for better or worse (hopefully, for the better if you heed their advice).

They’re hype men (or women), you might say. This is because a lot of what’s going on with AI right now is hype.

ChatGPT’s chief knows how to get his way

The greatest of all these, of course, is Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT. This week, Bloomberg Businessweek reported on Altman’s rise within Silicon Valley, starting from founding a mediocre social networking app at age 19 to becoming the head of the most exciting company in tech.

Altman founded Loopt, a pre-smartphone social location app in 2007. He charmed and networked with important tech and venture-capital power players, and was personally tapped to be Paul Graham’s successor at Y Combinator at age 29. He was a savvy and successful investor (even still, he has personal investments in more than 400 companies, some of which do business with OpenAI, according to The Wall Street Journal, which has raised some eyebrows about conflict of interest) and convinced deep-pocketed friends Reid Hoffman, Peter Thiel, and Elon Musk (now a frenemy) to fund OpenAI as a nonprofit.

Sam Altman, third from the left, along with the late DJ Kay Slay; Craig Thole, then of Boost Mobile; and Fabolous, in 2006, back in the day when Sam was hawking his social app Loopt.

Jason Kempin/Getty Images

By many accounts, Altman is charismatic, good with people, and even better at getting his way. “Altman’s biggest strength is figuring out who can help him the most, then dazzling them,” someone who worked with Altman told Bloomberg on the Foundering podcast.

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Sam Altman Is the Biggest ‘Personality Hire.’ AI Is Full of Them.

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