Microsoft has announced it is hiring former OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and company co-founder Greg Brockman to lead it’s newly formed “advanced AI research team” following a dramatic series of events that saw Altman fired late last week for allegedly lying to OpenAI’s board of directors.
Altman’s unexpected exit from the company he co-founded prompted employees to send a letter to OpenAI’s board demanding its removal.
OpenAI is an American organization with a mission statement to research and build safe, highly autonomous systems known as artificial general intelligences (AGI), which would serve to benefit “all of humanity”. The company, which is best known for its AI-driven chatbot ChatGPT, was founded in 2015 as a non-profit, before transitioning to a capped-profit model, throughout which Altman served in a leadership role and as CEO of the organization prior to his removal on November 17.
“Mr. Altman’s departure follows a deliberative review process by the board, which concluded that he was not consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities,” read a post on the company’s website announcing the removal of the CEO. “The board no longer has confidence in his ability to continue leading OpenAI.”
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
Altman’s sudden ousting by the board came as a surprise to many in the AI industry and beyond, including the company’s chairman of the board Greg Brockman, who, like Altman, was informed over a Google Meet session that he was being removed from his position.
In a post on X (formerly Twitter), OpenAI’s newly appointed interim CEO Emmett Shear clarified that Altman’s sudden removal had not been prompted by any potential safety issues posed by the cutting edge AI tech being developed by the company.
“The board did *not* remove Sam over any specific disagreement on safety, their reasoning was completely different from that,” explained Shear, who had previously served as CEO of the live video streaming website Twitch. “I’m not crazy enough to take this job without board support for commercializing our awesome models.”
Today I got a call inviting me to consider a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: to become the interim CEO of @OpenAI. After consulting with my family and reflecting on it for just a few hours, I accepted. I had recently resigned from my role as CEO of Twitch due to the birth of my…
— Emmett Shear (@eshear) November 20, 2023
Shear also admitted that the communication surrounding Altman’s removal had been “handled very badly”, in a way that had damaged employee trust, and that he was hiring an independent investigator to “dig into the entire process” leading up to the CEO’s dismissal.
In the days that followed the Wall Street Journal reported that OpenAI investors were facilitating negotiations to bring Altman back into the fold, though the former CEO had said that significant changes to the company’s governance, including the replacement of the current board, would need to be enacted to make his return a reality.
While the exact reasoning behind Altman’s dismissal remains unclear, one board member (OpenAI’s chief scientist Ilya Sutskever) has since voiced his regret at how events unfolded, and expressed a wish to undo the damage caused by the sudden removal. “I deeply regret my participation in the board’s actions. I never intended to harm OpenAI,” said Sutskever on X. “I love everything we’ve built together and I will do everything I can to reunite the company.”
On November 20, Microsoft chairman and CEO Satya Nadella made the shock announcement that Altman and Brockman would be joining Microsoft to lead a new “advanced AI research team”. At the same time, Satya re-emphasised Microsoft’s commitment to partnering with OpenAI, following a multi-billion dollar investment earlier this year.
We remain committed to our partnership with OpenAI and have confidence in our product roadmap, our ability to continue to innovate with everything we announced at Microsoft Ignite, and in continuing to support our customers and partners. We look forward to getting to know Emmett…
— Satya Nadella (@satyanadella) November 20, 2023
Joining Altman in the new venture are some big names from the burgeoning AI sector, including GPT-4 lead Jakub Pachocki, Szymon Sidor, Aleksander Madry, and, of course Brockman. It isn’t yet clear how many more of Altman’s former colleagues will be making the leap from OpenAI to Microsoft. However, Monday has seen a number of OpenAI employees take to social media to post the phrase “OpenAI is nothing without its people”, in an act of co-ordinated displeasure over the board’s actions.
The situation later escalated, with journalist Kara Swisher revealing that a large-scale revolt was seemingly unfolding within OpenAI, which saw 505 of the company’s 700 employees – including board member Ilya Sutskever – sign a letter in which they threatened to resign and join Altman if the board refused to step down.
— Kara Swisher (@karaswisher) November 20, 2023
Over the course of the letter, the employees accused the board of negotiating in bad faith, and failing to provide specific facts surrounding Altman’s termination. The board had also allegedly informed the leadership team that allowing the company to be destroyed “would be consistent with the [company’s] mission”.
The letter also asserts that Microsoft has assured the employees that there were positions immediately available for all OpenAI employees at the new subsidiary, should their negotiations fail. In a tweet following on from his initial announcement, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella hinted at the scope, and potential automony that will be enjoyed by Altman’s AI research team.
“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,” said Nadella. “And I’m looking forward to having you do the same.”
Anthony is a freelance contributor covering science and video gaming news for IGN. He has over eight years experience of covering breaking developments in multiple scientific fields and absolutely no time for your shenanigans. Follow him on Twitter @BeardConGamer
Denial of responsibility! TechCodex is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, and all materials to their authors. For any complaint, please reach us at – [email protected]. We will take necessary action within 24 hours.
Eugen Boglaru is an AI aficionado covering the fascinating and rapidly advancing field of Artificial Intelligence. From machine learning breakthroughs to ethical considerations, Eugen provides readers with a deep dive into the world of AI, demystifying complex concepts and exploring the transformative impact of intelligent technologies.