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Lack of diversity on OpenAI board questioned by Congressional Black Caucus

todayJanuary 29, 2024

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Lack of Diversity on OpenAI Board Questioned by Congressional Black Caucus
Rep. Barbara Lee, Rep Emanuel Cleaver, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman

OpenAI recently responded to a letter sent by the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) that raised serious concerns over the lack of diversity on the AI lab’s board of directors. As reported by TechCrunch, OpenAI’s response, dated January 5th and signed by CEO Sam Altman and Chairman Bret Taylor, stated that building a “complete and diverse board” is one of the company’s top priorities.

The CBC letter was sent in mid-December by Reps. Emanuel Cleaver and Barbara Lee noted that OpenAI’s board is now composed exclusively of white men after recent shake-ups. It highlighted the importance of including Black perspectives in developing AI tools to help mitigate bias.

The letter argued that biased AI outcomes can deepen racial inequities, which is especially worrying for the Black community. It emphasized that diverse viewpoints are essential in guiding the ethical development of AI, given the technology’s incredible capabilities and potential for misuse or accidents.

The CBC asked several pressing questions in its letter about OpenAI’s goals for board diversity and its processes for ensuring qualified women and people of color are considered for seats. It requested a response by December 29th.

1. What concrete DEI goals has OpenAI established for selecting and governance its board of directors?

2. What formal processes has OpenAI adopted to ensure qualified women and people of color are identified and considered for your board or directors?

3. How will OpenAI ensure that women or people of color selected for the board have material influence over governance decisions?

4. Is OpenAI considering reforms to its unique governance structure that may help your organization better achieve its mission of ensuring AI benefits all of humanity?

5. Will OpenAI commit to naming a diverse board to include subject matter expertise with perspectives from the African American community?

OpenAI did not address the CBC’s call for adding Black members in its response. The company stated broadly that its board restructuring was ongoing and remains committed to addressing AI bias. However, Rep. Cleaver told TechCrunch that he had hoped for “a stronger response” with concrete diversity plans.

While OpenAI expressed a commitment to inclusion, its lack of specifics on diversifying the board is disappointing. As the CBC letter emphasized, diverse perspectives are critical in guiding the development of AI so that it benefits all groups equally.

The CBC plans to continue pressing OpenAI on this issue of board diversity, which is the right call. Powerful AI like DALL-E and ChatGPT carry risks if developed without diverse viewpoints. OpenAI would bolster public trust by backing up its verbal commitment to diversity with meaningful action. Its innovations depend on it.

Written by: Tarik Moody

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