If you want to feel like James Bond, make an unannounced visit to OpenAI’s San Francisco headquarters.
Since November, the company has skyrocketed to international fame. Chat GPTan artificial intelligence-powered chatbot that writes TV scripts for fictional episodes of Seinfeld, composes pretty eloquent poems, modifies computer code, Generate Typical San Francisco News Articles.
Like many journalists, we at The Standard wanted to interview them, in part because we feared chatbots would soon replace us. The company did not speak to the press often and did not respond to emails or phone calls.
So when the editor in charge stopped by in person and asked if I could request it, I thought it would be worth a try.
I’m a big fan of chatbots and personally had a lot of questions I wanted to ask the creators. Both serious (“What does this technology mean for the future?”) and urgently serious (“How many times can one person do it?”). Ask ChatGPT to write NSFWMore Limerick before being banned from the platform? Looking for friends. )
But when I arrived at the OpenAI office, I immediately realized something. Their AI could probably create a proper script about a journalist stopping by their office, but the company itself doesn’t want journalists to spot them, waltz in right away, and have an interview.
Let’s do some backup.
I am an investigative reporter, but I did not use my hardcore investigative skills or resources in this assignment. I Googled the company’s address (the historic Pioneer Building on his 18th Street in the Mission District) and took the bus from there. When I arrived, I rang the buzzer and told the guards that I was looking for her OpenAI.
Not an impregnable fortress
“They have moved,” he said, then gave me their new address. As far as I know, it hasn’t been published yet. It was only a few blocks away so we walked over. The new location was a large, unremarkable beige and white building with many windows. It looked like a tech office, but it wasn’t necessarily the headquarters of today’s most innovative companies.
When I arrived, someone was entering the courtyard through the main gate, so I followed him in. I had to have an electronic key or ring a buzzer to open the gate, which was not registered. At the time.
Once inside, we walked to OpenAI’s glass front door. This time it was clear that a key card was required to enter. However, an employee approached me and let me in without asking any questions.
Now I was in the lobby of the most famous AI office on the planet. There was a front desk with security guards and a few guys in hoodies and sneakers sitting in the waiting room with laptops, I thought they were waiting for job interviews.
When I went to the front desk, security asked if I had a reservation.
“No, I’m a journalist for The Standard. I’m here for an interview.”
“Oh, I don’t have anyone here to help me with that,” she said in a slightly surprised tone as she started dialing the number on her phone. Hmm.”
no problem. I stepped into the courtyard.
Less than 30 seconds later, security came out on the phone and frantically told someone (probably her boss) that they didn’t know where I was from.
“I have to get him out now!” she said. Keep in her mind, she never even asked me to leave the house.
I didn’t mean to sit down. I followed her and she closed her gate behind me. “May I give her your business card?” I asked and held out her business card from the bar.
“I’m sorry,” she said and ran off. She came out less than two minutes after entering.
“What happened?” I thought to myself. I looked down at my business card. It still said “Matthew Kupfer” and listed me as a reporter for The Standard, not a KGB agent or member of a terrorist organization.
Looking back, I feel sorry for the guards as they were genuinely afraid that I would get into trouble for entering the building. But my main emotion at that moment was surprise.
I have been turned down many times for interviews. But I’ve never seen an organization so unprepared for the potential emergence of journalists.
We understand that tech companies have serious and legitimate concerns about corporate espionage, but OpenAI (probably the most talked about tech company at the moment) has made it clear that private addresses and buzzers effectively infiltrate them. It seems they believed they were making an impossible fortress.
I also couldn’t help but feel that they didn’t understand how journalism works. Journalists regularly approach people and organizations and ask for their comments unannounced. And instead of flipping out, they took my card, promised to hand it down the chain of command, sent me on my way, and could immediately throw it in the trash. Did. Has anyone in this company ever ghosted someone on Tinder?
Either way, if you’re there, OpenAI, The Standard still wants to interview you. So far, I’ve asked ChatGPT to verse the story of a visit to your office, and the results are pretty good!
On the most beautiful San Francisco bay,
A magnificent tall building stands.
What’s inside a great company?
For everyone, that work changed the world.
One day, a journalist came to see
This place of magic and mystery and power,
He entered with a purpose, full of joy,
However, I encountered a shocking sight.
As he was defenseless and walking freely,
to a place that is off-limits,
But soon he received a decree,
It sent him on his way.
Intrepid journalist Matthew Kupper
Turned away by waves of guards,
But how did he get in?
Did he slip through it all with a mischievous grin?