SAN FRANCISCO (The Thursday Times) — OpenAI, the progenitor of ChatGPT, has been engulfed in a leadership crisis, following the dramatic firing of its CEO Sam Altman.
Sam Altman’s abrupt dismissal by OpenAI’s board, alongside the subsequent resignation of co-founder Greg Brockman and three senior researchers, marks a pivotal moment in the company’s history. This fallout began unfolding on a Thursday when Altman received a message from Ilya Sutskever, OpenAI’s chief scientist, about a scheduled call the next day, leading to the announcement of Altman’s firing.
Microsoft, a major investor in OpenAI, swiftly reacted to the upheaval. CEO Satya Nadella issued a statement following Altman’s firing, and later, the company would open its doors to Altman, Brockman, and other OpenAI staff to lead a new AI research team. This strategic maneuver underscores Microsoft’s deepening investment in AI and its commitment to securing top talent.
The crisis further intensified as nearly 500 of OpenAI’s approximately 770 employees, including Sutskever, signed a letter threatening to resign unless the board resigned and Altman was reappointed. The number of signatories later rose to over 650. This mass revolt by the employees underscores a shift in power dynamics within the company, where the workforce’s voice significantly impacts corporate decisions.
In a notable twist, investors, led by firms like Thrive Capital, exerted pressure on OpenAI’s board to reinstate Altman. The board, reportedly, agreed in principle to resign and allow Altman and Brockman to return. However, the situation remained fluid, with Altman being ambivalent about returning and asking for significant governance changes.
As the search for a new permanent CEO continues, OpenAI appointed Emmett Shear, co-founder of the video streaming site Twitch, as interim CEO. This decision was made amidst ongoing negotiations and the board’s resistance to reinstate Altman.
The events at OpenAI have triggered a broader discussion about the future of AI development, ethical considerations, and corporate governance in the tech industry. The turmoil has opened up the potential for talent shifts within the industry, with other tech companies, including Salesforce, vying for OpenAI’s human resources.