On Friday, November 27th, OpenAI’s board shocked the AI community by announcing that it had fired its CEO and co-founder Sam Altman.
Altman had become OpenAI’s CEO in 2019 and had led the company on all of its AI fronts, including the development of ChatGPT.
At the time, it was also announced that the company’s president, Greg Brockman, was stepping down from his position.
Sam and I are shocked and saddened by what the board did today.
Let us first say thank you to all the incredible people who we have worked with at OpenAI, our customers, our investors, and all of those who have been reaching out.
We too are still trying to figure out exactly…
— Greg Brockman (@gdb) November 18, 2023
OpenAI’s reasoning behind the firing was that Altman “was not consistently candid in his communications” and that the company no longer had confidence “in his ability to continue leading OpenAI.” The company claimed that firing Altman was necessary to protect OpenAI’s mission of “making AI beneficial to humanity.”
It was subsequently reported that the board will hold talks with Altman and Brockman, and they will reportedly be reinstated.
However, a November 19th report from The Information suggested that Altman won’t be returning as the CEO and that the company had hired former Twitch CEO and co-founder Emmett Shear as OpenAI’s interim CEO.
On Monday, November 20th, Microsoft announced that it had hired both Altman and Brockman to lead a new AI research team. CEO Satya Nadella said that Altman and Brockman will be joined by colleagues from OpenAI, with many already vacating their roles at OpenAI to join Altman at Microsoft.
I’m super excited to have you join as CEO of this new group, Sam, setting a new pace for innovation. We’ve learned a lot over the years about how to give founders and innovators space to build independent identities and cultures within Microsoft, including GitHub, Mojang Studios,…
— Satya Nadella (@satyanadella) November 20, 2023
“We’ve learned a lot over the years about how to give founders and innovators space to build independent identities and cultures within Microsoft, including GitHub, Mojang Studios, and LinkedIn, and I’m looking forward to having you do the same,” said Nadella, addressing Altman.
Now, when the dust seems to have begun to settle, hundreds of OpenAI employees are threatening to resign and join Microsoft. As shared by Wired, more than 500 employees penned a letter to the OpenAI board, saying “The process through which you terminated Sam Altman and removed Greg Brockman from the board has jeopardized all of this work and undermined our mission and company. Your conduct has made it clear you did not have the competence to oversee OpenAI.”
— Kara Swisher (@karaswisher) November 20, 2023
The letter also states that Microsoft has assured that there are positions for all OpenAI employees at its new AI subsidiary led by Altman, should they choose to join.
OpenAI is also facing backlash from investors and partners who have begun to question the legitimacy and credibility of the board’s decision and clarity regarding the future of the organization.
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