Ethnic Appropriation? ChatGPT Creator Mira Murati is an Albanian American, Not Indian American as Reported by Indian Media
- The misreporting can be attributed to the name Mira, which is a popular Indian name, but can also be found in several other linguistic, ethnic and cultural groups.
What’s in a name? A slippery slope, if one were to go by the way some in the Indian media went to town claiming Mira Murati, Chief Technology Officer of OpenAI, the company that created ChatGPT, is an Indian American.
She is not. She is an American of Albanian origin. Although there is almost no biographical information available online, most websites identify her as an Albanian, including Albanian websites. One of them claims that the 1987-born technologist was born in Vlora, Albania.
ChatGPT has had a sensational debut last year because of its potential applications. As Cnet.com says, “this artificial intelligence bot can answer questions, write essays and program computers.”
The Indian media reports, however, widely quoted Murati’s recent interview with Time magazine where she expressed her concerns over its misuse, mainly using it as a peg to claim that she is an Indian American. Several leading newspapers published an Indian agency report that misreported Murati’s ethnicity.
One Indian blogger who runs “Biography Reader” even went on to claim that “she was born in a middle-class Hindu family. Her father’s name is Mr. Murati. Her mother’s name is Mrs. Murati.”
It is understandable that some eager Indians would think that any great breakthrough in the technology sector would have some Indian connection. After all, people of Indian origin are running some of the biggest companies in tech, and are some of the leading lights in tech innovation. But jumping the gun without bothering to verify, could lead to regrettable ethnic appropriation, particularly when the basis of appropriation is based merely on a name that sounds Indian.
True, Mira or Meera is the name of the fabled devotee of Lord Krishna in the Mahabharata. But the name can be traced to many languages, cultures and ethnicities, including, Arabic, Albanian, Hebrew, Latin, Sanskrit, Slavic, Indian, Korean, Finnish, Japanese and Turkish. According to a baby names website, the name Mira is a girl’s name of Latin origin meaning “admirable; peace; female ruler; ocean.”
Mira is, in fact, a popular name in America as well, particularly among people of Slavic and Italian origin. Hollywood actress Mira Sorvino is one among them.
Murati joined OpenAI in 2018 and raised through the ranks, becoming Senior Vice President of Reattach, Products & Partnership and eventually the CTO, according to her LinkedIn profile. She has previously worked for Goldman Sachs, Zodiac Aerospace, Tesla, and Leap Motion. She graduated from Dartmouth College with a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering. She is currently based in the San Francisco area.
Last month, an Indian news agency inaccurately identified Bravo’s reality TV star Jen Shah as Indian American. The “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City,” fame, who was sentenced to 78 months in prison for running a nationwide telemarketing fraud scheme, is of Tongan and Hawaiian descent. Originally a Mormon, she converted to Islam after marrying football coach Sharrieff Shah. The agency report was widely published in the Indian media.
Everything is fine but Mira, Meera or Mirabai is not a fabled devotee of Lord Krishna during the Mahabhaata times but a princess devotee of Lord Krishna from one of the royal families of 16th Century Rajasthan in India. It was during the time of Mughal Ruler Akbar’s rule in India