Coinciding with this shift in focus, there have also been many organizational changes at MIRI over the last several months, and we are somewhat overdue to announce them in public. The big changes are as follows:
- Malo Bourgon: Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
- Malo Bourgon, MIRI’s most long-standing team member next to Eliezer Yudkowsky, has transitioned from Chief Operating Officer into the senior leadership role at MIRI.1 We piloted the change starting in February and made it official in June.
- This is partly an attempt to better reflect long-standing realities at MIRI. Nate’s focus for many years has been on high-level strategy and research, while Malo has handled much of the day-to-day running of the organization.
- This change also reflects that Malo is taking on a lot more decision-making authority and greater responsibility for steering the organization.
- Nate Soares: President
- Nate, who previously held the senior leadership role at MIRI (with the title of Executive Director), has transitioned to the new role of President.
- As President (and as a board member), Nate will continue to play a central role in guiding MIRI and setting our vision and strategy.
- Eliezer Yudkowsky: Chair of the Board
- Eliezer, a co-founder of MIRI and a Senior Research Fellow, was already a member of MIRI’s board.
- We’ve now made Eliezer the board’s chair in order to better reflect the de facto reality that his views get a large weight in MIRI strategic direction.
- Edwin Evans, who was the board’s previous chair, remains on MIRI’s board.
- Eliezer, Nate, and Malo have different senses of which technical research directions are most promising. To balance their different views, the board currently gives each of Eliezer, Nate, and Malo a budget to fund different technical research, in addition to the research that’s funded by the organization as a whole.
- Alex Vermeer: Chief Operating Officer (COO)
- Alex has stepped up to replace Malo as COO.
- As COO, Alex is responsible for running/overseeing the operations team, as he has already been doing for some time, and he’ll continue to work closely with Malo (as he has for over a decade now) to help figure out what our core constraints are, and figure out how to break them.
- Jimmy Rintjema: Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
- Jimmy has been working for MIRI since 2015. Over the years, Jimmy has progressively taken on more and more of the responsibility for running MIRI’s business operations, including HR and finances.
- As part of this transition, Jimmy is taking on more responsibility and authority in this domain, and this title change is to reflect that.
Nate shared the following about handing over the lead role at MIRI to Malo:
This change is in large part an enshrinement of the status quo. Malo’s been doing a fine job running MIRI day-to-day for many many years (including feats like acquiring a rural residence for all staff who wanted to avoid cities during COVID, and getting that venue running smoothly). In recent years, morale has been low and I, at least, haven’t seen many hopeful paths before us. That has changed somewhat over the past year or so, with a heightened awareness of AI across-the-board opening up new social and political possibilities. I think that Malo’s better-positioned to take advantage of many of those than I would have been. I’m also hoping that he’s able to pull off even more impressive feats (and more regularly) now that he is in the top executive role.
In addition to these changes, we’ve also made two new senior staff hires to better manage, coordinate, and support MIRI’s work in our two main focus areas:
- Lisa Thiergart: Research Manager
- Lisa will be managing MIRI’s research staff and projects. Her work includes charting new research strategy, managing existing projects, improving research processes, as well as growing and supporting (new) research teams.
- Lisa is a computer scientist from TUM and Georgia Tech, with a background in academic and industry ML research and training in technology management and entrepreneurship from CDTM and Entrepreneur First. She worked for several years in ML research labs and startups, as well as spending 8 months doing alignment research at SERI MATS. Her past work included projects on model internals, RLHF on robotics, and neurotech/whole brain emulation.
- Lisa is also a grant advisor on the Foresight Alignment Fund.
- Gretta Duleba: Communications Manager
- I (Gretta) will be leading the communications team at MIRI, working with Rob Bensinger, Colm Ó Riain, Nate, Eliezer, and other staff to create succinct, effective ways of explaining the extreme risks posed by smarter-than-human AI and what we think should be done about this problem.
- I was previously a senior software engineering manager at Google, leading large teams on Google Maps and Google Analytics, before switching careers to work as an independent relationship counselor.
With these changes, our organizational structure now looks like this:
We’re hopeful that this new organizational structure will enable us to execute on our priorities more effectively and, with considerable luck, move the needle on existential risk from AI.
There’s a lot more we hope to say about our new (and still evolving) strategy, and about our general thinking on the world’s (generally very dire) situation. But I don’t want those announcements to further delay sharing the above updates, so I’ve factored our 2023 strategy updates into multiple posts, beginning with this one.2
- It’s common practice for the chief executive of US nonprofits to have the title “Executive Director”. However, at MIRI we like our titles to have clear meanings, and the word “director” is also used to refer to members of the Board of Directors. For that reason, we only like to include “director” in someone’s title if they are in fact a member of MIRI’s board. During his tenure as our chief executive, Nate was also a member of MIRI’s board (and continues to be after this transition), and as such the title “Executive Director” seemed appropriate. However, as Malo is not on MIRI’s board he’ll be using the title of “CEO”.↩
- Thanks to Rob Bensinger and Malo Bourgon for helping write and edit this post.↩