This is a corporate soap opera of unprecedented proportions. Investors spent a weekend trying to bring Sam Altman back as CEO of OpenAI, which developed the advanced text generator ChatGPT, among other things.
That failed, but this morning there was a new twist to the story: Altman is moving to Microsoft. By Friday, he will bring his confidant, OpenAI president Greg Brockman, with him.
Shock in the technology world
Altman, who became the face of this year’s developments in artificial intelligence (AI), was unexpectedly fired on Friday. The board found he was “not consistently clear” in his communications.
Altman’s resignation sent shockwaves through OpenAI employees, investors and the broader tech community on Friday. Until now, OpenAI has been a leader in AI developments.
Normally, the founder and CEO of a company is not easily dismissed. Especially if the company is extremely successful; This violates all Silicon Valley laws.
OpenAI is definitely not a normal company. It was founded as a non-profit organization with a commercial arm to facilitate fundraising. Developing artificial intelligence is expensive.
Since the nonprofit’s board of directors is effectively in office, Altman has virtually no authority. This is a big difference from, for example, Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, where founder Mark Zuckerberg has a majority of the votes on the board.
The reason for his dismissal is unclear.
OpenAI’s board of directors, which has not yet responded to the latest developments despite 48 hours of negotiations, did not see any point in Altman’s return last weekend. Mira Murati (technical director of the company) was also removed from her position as interim boss. The board has now appointed the co-founder of live streaming platform Twitch as its new president.
Altman’s latest departure throws the company into further chaos. Altman was loved by the staff. Technology news site The Information reports that dozens of employees have now announced their departures. Whether Altman’s new employer is Microsoft or not, they won’t have any trouble finding a new job.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said he will run a new AI research lab at X, where he will get everything he needs to succeed.
There were initially reports that Altman was considering starting his own startup. Bloomberg also reported that it is working on a startup that could compete with chip maker Nvidia; Altman wanted to raise a billion-dollar investment in the Middle East.
It’s unclear at this time whether his plans outside of OpenAI played a role in the decision to abruptly fire him.
In any case, there seems to have been a civil war for direction. According to the New York Times, Ilya Sutskever, one of OpenAI’s other founders and board members, became increasingly concerned that the technology the company was developing might be dangerous and that Altman wasn’t paying enough attention to it.
According to the new CEO, the reason for the dismissal was not a disagreement over safety. He did not explain why.
OpenAI’s uncertain future
Altman was asked to participate in a video call in San Francisco around noon Friday in which he allegedly read a text saying Sutskever had been fired.
OpenAI’s lead partner and investor, Microsoft, was notified a minute before the press release was published. This was not a good thing for the tech giant.
The software giant has invested $13 billion in OpenAI, mostly in computing capacity for AI training. The company owns 49 percent of the shares in the trading division. However, he does not have a seat on the board and therefore his influence is limited.
The real question is what happens next for OpenAI. It is clear that the organization is in crisis. In the short term, users won’t notice much. ChatGPT continues to work as usual.
There will definitely be problems in the long run. The board has proven to be unpredictable. This could make it harder for OpenAI to acquire AI talent, raise money (they were working on it at a €78 billion valuation), or form significant partnerships.
In a highly competitive market, this can seriously hinder continued success.
Roy Brown is a renowned economist and author at The Nation View. He has a deep understanding of the global economy and its intricacies. He writes about a wide range of economic topics, including monetary policy, fiscal policy, international trade, and labor markets.