On Friday, OpenAI’s board abruptly announced that CEO Sam Altman, arguably the biggest name in AI, and now on Monday morning, Altman has landed a new gig at Microsoft despite OpenAI’s attempts to bring him back at CEO. Here’s everything you should know about the drama-filled weekend.
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Friday: OpenAI fires CEO Sam Altman
Kicking off the series of events here was a scathing, openly anger-fueled announcement from OpenAI’s board of directors in which CEO Sam Altman was fired from the company.
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. The board no longer has confidence in his ability to continue leading OpenAI.
Later that evening, one of OpenAI’s co-founders, Greg Brockman, also announced he would be leaving the company, and Brockman also detailed how co-founder Ilya Sutskever and other board members notified Sam Altman of the decision over a Google Meet call shortly before the announcement went public.
Saturday & Sunday: OpenAI tries to re-hire Altman amid threat of staff exodus
The next day, as the drama continued, OpenAI saw three of its senior researchers resign amid Altman’s outing as The Information reported.
An outpouring of support for Altman also came from OpenAI employees, as many threatened to depart the company in a huge exodus. A deadline of 5pm PT was set on Saturday for the board to reinstate Alman and Brockman, which the remaining board members ultimately missed. Employees took to social media saying that “OpenAI is nothing without its people.”
Talks were indeed underway between Sam Altman and OpenAI’s board – Altman was on-site at OpenAI’s offices complete with a guest pass – but those talks ultimately fell through. As The Verge reported, the board had apparently agreed “in principle” to resign and allow Altman to return, but the talks fell through with the board failing to make up its mind on the decision.
Monday: Microsoft hires Sam Altman and more…
And that brings us to today, where some groundbreaking announcements have been made.
Sam Altman and Greg Brockman are now at Microsoft
First and foremost, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has announced that Sam Altman, Greg Brockman, and “other colleagues” have joined Microsoft to lead a “new advanced AI research team.” Altman, adding to Nadella’s statement, said that “the mission continues” in a brief post on Twitter/X.
Altman, notably, will have a CEO title within Microsoft, and Greg Brockman confirmed a few other members of OpenAI moving over to the Microsoft team including GPT-4 lead Jakub Pachocki, Szymon Sidor, and OpenAI’s former “head of preparedness” Aleksander Madry alongside Brockman and Altman.
Twitch co-founder Emmett Shear has taken on the role of interim CEO at OpenAI amid the departures, with Shear announcing on Twitter/X that an independent investigator will “dig into the entire process leading up to this point and generate a full report.”
Microsoft says it is still committed to its partnership with OpenAI as well, though Satya Nadella has been quoted saying that Microsoft “can stand on its own two feet” if OpenAI were to fully collapse, as Microsoft didn’t “lack AI software of its own to fall back on.”
OpenAI co-founder ‘deeply regrets’ the board’s actions, calls on board to resign
Meanwhile, OpenAI co-founder Ilya Sutskever, who if you’ll recall told Altman of his firing, has spoken out on Twitter/X that he “deeply regrets” his participation in the board’s actions. He adds that he will do “everything” to reunite the company.
Meanwhile, as Kara Swisher on Twitter/X reports, an overwhelming 505 employees at OpenAI are calling on the board of directors to resign. The list includes Ilya Suskever.
The list has since grown to include 700 of the total 770 employees at OpenAI as Amir Efrati of The Information notes.
And, all the meanwhile, Sam Altman reportedly isn’t done trying to keep OpenAI together. Sources tell The Verge that Altman and Brockman are still open to return to OpenAI and that only two other board members need to commit to the plan, while all parties (and investors) reportedly try to find a “graceful exit” for remaining board members.
This is still a developing story, so check back for more updates regularly…
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