OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT, found itself in turmoil following the dismissal of its co-founder and now former CEO.
Sam Altman was ousted from the board last Friday and quickly picked up by Microsoft to run a new artificial intelligence division.
Altman’s firing quickly led to the resignation of Greg Brockman as president, sparking an eventful weekend in which OpenAI named a new interim CEO, only to replace him with someone else later.
The story took another turn Monday with the majority of employees threatening to resign unless all four board members resign and Altman returns to the helm.
Here’s what’s happening at OpenAI.
Altman ‘not always candid’ in communications with board: OpenAI
When it announced Altman’s firing, OpenAI said the board conducted a “deliberative review process” that found the 38-year-old was “not always candid in his communications with the board of directors, which hindered his ability to carry out his responsibilities.”
The company added that the board “no longer has confidence in his ability to continue to lead OpenAI.”
Altman helped bring ChatGPT to global attention with its ability to answer questions and produce human-like text in a seemingly natural way. Over the past year, he has become Silicon Valley’s most sought-after voice on the promise and potential dangers of AI.
Originally created as a nonprofit organization, and still governed as such, OpenAI’s stated mission is to safely create AI that is “generally smarter than humans.” However, debates have revolved around this goal and whether it conflicts with the company’s growing commercial success.
The reason behind the board’s removal of Altman was not a “specific disagreement over security,” nor does the board oppose the commercialization of AI models, a OpenAI interim CEO Emmett Shear said Monday.
As of Friday, its four-person board consisted of three independent directors with no stake in OpenAI, as well as chief scientist Ilya Sutskever.
After his firing, Altman took to X, formerly known as Twitter, saying he “loved” his time at the company.
“It’s been transformative for me personally and hopefully for the world a little bit. Above all, I enjoyed working with such talented people,” he said Friday.
This post would be the first of many following the events that would unfold following his departure.
OpenAI appoints interim CEO, to replace him later
Before Shear took over as interim CEO, Mira Murati, the company’s chief technology officer, was briefly named to the role.
She a*sumed this role immediately after Altman’s firing. OpenAI described her as playing a “critical role in OpenAI’s evolution into a global AI leader.”
“She brings a unique sk**l set, an understanding of the company’s values, operations and businesses, and already leads the company’s research, product and security functions,” he said Friday .
“Given her long tenure and close engagement in all aspects of the business, including her experience in AI governance and policy, the Board believes she is uniquely qualified for this role and anticipates a smooth transition while it formally searches for a permanent CEO. »
However, his tenure did not last long. Shear was named interim CEO on Monday and pledged to hire an independent investigator to look into Altman’s ouster, promising a written report within 30 days.
He said he also planned to reform the management and leadership team and “drive changes in the organization,” including “significant governance changes where necessary.”
It’s unclear why Murati was replaced, although she was among several employees Monday who tweeted: “OpenAI is nothing without its people.” » Altman responded to many with heart emojis.
Hundreds of employees threaten to leave OpenAI
Microsoft, which is a close partner of the company and has invested billions of dollars in it, tapped Altman and Brockman to lead its new advanced AI research team after their departure.
On Monday, almost all of OpenAI’s more than 700 employees threatened to resign in a letter demanding the resignation of the board and the reinstatement of Altman and Brockman, according to Reuters and the Associated Press, which had access to the letter. PKBNEWS has not seen the letter in question.
In fashion now
According to the Associated Press, the letter claimed that after Altman’s firing, the company’s remaining management team recommended that the board of directors resign and be replaced by a “qualified board of directors” who could stabilize the business.
But the board resisted and said allowing OpenAI to be destroyed would be consistent with its mission, according to the letter reported by the Associated Press.
The document was signed by employees, including Sutskever, a board member who helped oust Altman.
“It was never my intention to harm OpenAI. I love everything we’ve built together and I will do everything I can to bring the company together,” he said on X on Monday.
Hours later, Altman and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella sought to allay fears of an OpenAI collapse.
Altman wrote on
Turmoil could turn OpenAI into a ‘shell of what it once was’
How this could have happened worries Viet Vu, head of economic research at The Dais, a public policy and leadership think tank at Toronto Metropolitan University.
“How is it that a single company could have been large enough that when a fight between a board of directors and a CEO took place… the whole world was worried? he told PKBNEWS on Monday.
“How is it that the governance of such an important company has been set up in such a way that no transparency or process appears to have taken place in such an important decision? All the details of this ma*sive, chaotic saga don’t matter: what matters is that it was allowed to happen in the first place and that governments, the company, and everyone else had it in mind. somehow watched its progress.”
Sarah Kreps, director of the Tech Policy Institute at Cornell University, told The Associated Press on Monday that OpenAI’s future was now threatened by employees threatening to leave.
“If the architects, the vision and the brains behind these products are gone, the company will be a shell of what it once was,” Kreps said.
“All this brain trust given to Microsoft will then mean that these awesome tools will come out of Microsoft. It will be difficult to see OpenAI continue to thrive as a company.
Will Knight, WIRED’s senior editor who covers artificial intelligence, said it’s unclear what the AI development landscape would look like if OpenAI employees followed through on their letter and resigned.
“If everyone…ends up joining the new Microsoft subsidiary, then Microsoft will certainly do very well.” Then it looks like Google versus Microsoft all over again. A lot of people are worried about the direction AI is going and wonder if it should only be in the hands of these big companies,” he told PKBNEWS.
“Many people might end up joining other competitors or starting their own businesses. Many of these people are the best AI talents in the world and are in high demand. This could therefore have the effect of generating more startups and developments in this space.
– with files from Eric Sorensen of PKBNEWS, Reuters and Associated Press