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Silicon Valley is gushing with excitement as Sam Altman, currently the big cheese of the AI world, just introduced his beau, Oliver Mulherin. Alongside his remarkable professional accomplishments, Altman is looking forward to starting a new chapter in life by settling down and preparing for fatherhood with Oliver, affectionately known as Ollie, reported The New Yorker.
Both Altman and Mulherin are extremely private about their relationship; the couple was first spotted together when they attended a White House dinner hosted for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in June. The event saw power couples from other big techs like Satya and Anu Nadella, Sundar and Anjali Pichai, and more.
Who is Oliver?
Although not much is known about Mulherin, what we do know is that he is of Australian origin and has graduated from the University of Melbourne in software engineering. His expertise lies in the space of Internet-of-Things (IoT) as confirmed by his joining of open-source coding organisation IOTA Foundation in 2018. During his university years, Oliver engaged in diverse AI projects, spanning from general game playing to language detection through LSTMs. His foray into the IoT realm commenced with victories in two hackathons, one sponsored by modular phone company Nexpaq and the other by General Electric. In the IoT domain, Mulherin specialized in establishing mesh communication networks connecting cell phones and warehouse sensor networks.
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Meanwhile, Thirty-eight-year-old Altman has had a “middle-class Jewish upbringing” in Missouri with three younger siblings — Max, Jack, and Annie. The family followed the tradition of having dinner together every night and fostering engagement through games and intellectual challenges. The environment at home was notably supportive, with Altman’s parents consistently expressing love and belief in his abilities. This nurturing atmosphere played a crucial role in instilling a high level of self-confidence in Altman throughout his formative years. In recognition of his efforts, GLAAD honoured Altman in 2017 with the Ric Weiland Award for promoting LGBTQ equality and acceptance within the tech sector.
Before Oliver, Altman had a nine-year-long relationship with Nick Sivo, who was also his Loopt co-founder and wanted to marry him. Unfortunately, the couple parted ways soon after Loopt was acquired by Green Dot Corporation for $43.4 million in 2012. Altman and Sivo had met at Stanford University and had been together since their sophomore year.
After acquiring Loopt and parting ways with his longtime partner Sivo, Altman took a year off. During his sabbatical, he read, played video games, and attended a spiritual retreat. In 2014, he wrote a blog post about ‘Founder’s Depression’, sharing his struggles and highlighting the commonality of depression among founders. He has always emphasised the need to openly address mental health challenges within the entrepreneurial community.
Why Sam’s Story Matters?
Recently recognised as one of the most influential people in AI by TIME magazine, blue backpack ambassador Altman came out of the closet during high school in an environment not particularly supportive of homosexuality. At 17, Altman addressed his school community when objections were raised against a speaker for National Coming Out Day due to religious beliefs and negative attitudes. In his speech, Altman emphasised the importance of tolerance and acceptance, advocating for an open and inclusive community and challenging discriminatory views.
His openness holds significance given the stigma still attached to homosexuality in parts of the tech industry. Compounded by a lack of reliable LGBTQ+ data in Silicon Valley, it’s a challenge to address the community’s issues. The fear of prejudice or discrimination keeps many from disclosing their sexual orientation or gender identity at work, hindering accurate workforce diversity assessment.
Back in April, AIM got in touch with several queer employees in prominent Indian tech companies to understand their real experiences and gain firsthand insights. To ensure privacy, both corporate names and individual identities were kept confidential.
Despite facing initial resistance due to company policies, we found a common theme among respondents. And despite the well-intentioned initiatives by management, a persistent issue of homophobic attitudes among coworkers was prevalent, with almost 60% of them being closeted in office space. The core problem appeared to be the prevalence of subtle homophobic jokes and microaggressions, seemingly innocuous but contributing to a broader culture of discrimination and intolerance within these tech giants.
Altman sharing his story becomes pivotal in dismantling barriers and fostering inclusivity amid the prevalent culture of discrimination within these tech giants.
Read more: Behind Indian IT’s Mixed Emotions for LGBTQ+