Simon Willison’s Weblog


Wednesday, 22nd November 2023

We have reached an agreement in principle for Sam Altman to return to OpenAI as CEO with a new initial board of Bret Taylor (Chair), Larry Summers, and Adam D’Angelo.

@OpenAI # 6:04 am

I remember that they [Ev and Biz at Twitter in 2008] very firmly believed spam was a concern, but, “we don’t think it’s ever going to be a real problem because you can choose who you follow.” And this was one of my first moments thinking, “Oh, you sweet summer child.” Because once you have a big enough user base, once you have enough people on a platform, once the likelihood of profit becomes high enough, you’re going to have spammers.

Del Harvey # 4:59 am

Claude: How to use system prompts. Documentation for the new system prompt support added in Claude 2.1. The design surprises me a little: the system prompt is just the text that comes before the first instance of the text “Human: ...”—but Anthropic promise that instructions in that section of the prompt will be treated differently and followed more closely than any instructions that follow.

This whole page of documentation is giving me some pretty serious prompt injection red flags to be honest. Anthropic’s recommended way of using their models is entirely based around concatenating together strings of text using special delimiter phrases.

I’ll give it points for honesty though. OpenAI use JSON to field different parts of the prompt, but under the hood they’re all concatenated together with special tokens into a single token stream. # 4:31 am

Introducing Claude 2.1. Anthropic’s Claude used to have the longest token context of any of the major models: 100,000 tokens, which is about 300 pages. Then GPT-4 Turbo came out with 128,000 tokens and Claude lost one of its key differentiators.

Claude is back! Version 2.1, announced today, bumps the token limit up to 200,000—and also adds support for OpenAI-style system prompts, a feature I’ve been really missing.

They also announced tool use, but that’s only available for a very limited set of partners to preview at the moment. # 4:28 am

Weeknotes: DevDay, GitHub Universe, OpenAI chaos

Three weeks of conferences and Datasette Cloud work, four days of chaos for OpenAI.

[... 766 words]

Sam Altman expelling Toner with the pretext of an inoffensive page in a paper no one read would have given him a temporary majority with which to appoint a replacement director, and then further replacement directors. These directors would, naturally, agree with Sam Altman, and he would have a full, perpetual board majority—the board, which is the only oversight on the OA CEO. Obviously, as an extremely experienced VC and CEO, he knew all this and how many votes he (thought he) had on the board, and the board members knew this as well—which is why they had been unable to agree on replacement board members all this time.

Gwern # 3:53 am

Deciphering clues in a news article to understand how it was reported

Written journalism is full of conventions that hint at the underlying reporting process, many of which are not entirely obvious. Learning how to read and interpret these can help you get a lot more out of the news.

[... 1456 words]

Before Altman’s Ouster, OpenAI’s Board Was Divided and Feuding. This is the first piece of reporting I’ve seen on the OpenAI situation which has offered a glimmer of an explanation as to what happened.

It sounds like the board had been fighting about things for over a year—notably including who should replace departed members, which is how they’d shrunk down to just six people.

There’s also an interesting detail in here about the formation of Anthropic:

“Mr. Sutskever’s frustration with Mr. Altman echoed what had happened in 2021 when another senior A.I. scientist left OpenAI to form the company Anthropic. That scientist and other researchers went to the board to try to push Mr. Altman out. After they failed, they gave up and departed, according to three people familiar with the attempt to push Mr. Altman out.” # 12:31 am

2023 » November