Karen Hao

Karen Hao

Reporters turned to Karen Hao during OpenAI’s leadership drama. The award-winning tech journalist knows more about Sam Altman’s firm than most. It’s the subject of her upcoming book, Empire of AI.

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Karen Hao's Biography

Few technology journalists understand their subject like Karen Hao. Beyond the geopolitical or markets aspect of the AI arms race, Hao understands the science itself. She studied at MIT alongside some of the titans now leading this new revolution

Hao currently writes for The Atlantic. She was previously a foreign correspondent at The Wall Street Journal focused on AI, China tech and society; and a senior editor at MIT Technology Review, where she wrote about the latest AI research and its social impacts.

She was a fellow with the Harvard Technology and Public Purpose Programme, the MIT Knight Science Journalism Programme, and the Pulitzer Center’s AI Accountability Network.

In 2022 her work won an American National Magazine Award, the highest honour in magazine journalism, for “outstanding achievement for magazine journalists under the age of 30.” In 2019 Hao's former weekly newsletter, The Algorithm, was named one of the best newsletters on the internet by The Webby Awards.

From 2020 to 2021, Karen Hao was the co-producer of the podcast In Machines We Trust. It was broadcasted in over 70 countries, won 2 front page awards and topped Apple's Tech charts. Her work has been cited numerous times in government testimonials and policy documents and is taught in universities around the world. In 2018 her What is AI? flowchart was featured in a museum exhibit in Vienna.

A highly sought-after speaker, Hao regularly gives talks about AI and journalism. Her TEDx talk Why We Need to Democratise How We Build AI challenged the notion that we only need technical expertise to develop technology. She says social expertise is needed too.

Having followed OpenAI closely since its formation, many media outlets turned to Hao after Sam Altman's firing then re-hiring as CEO. She explained the boomer vs doomer schism existing within the company. Some OpenAI employees are hugely bullish about AI's future while others believe it poses an existential risk. Hao says these opposing views caused tension as key figures debated the pace of change dictated by Sam Altman.

Karen Hao has guest lectured at MIT, Yale, Cornell, Notre Dame, and HKU, among other institutions. She received a B.S. in mechanical engineering and minor in energy studies from MIT. In a past life, she was an application engineer at the first startup to spin out of Google[x] and a tech reporter and data scientist at Quartz.

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