The board of OpenAI announced
The board of directors of OpenAI, Inc., the 501(c)(3) that acts as the overall governing body for all OpenAI activities, today announced that Sam Altman will depart as CEO and leave the board of directors. Mira Murati, the company’s chief technology officer, will serve as interim CEO, effective immediately.
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.
“Microsoft remains committed to Mira and their team as we bring this next era of AI to our customers,” a spokesperson for the software maker told Reuters on Friday.
How surprising that the CEO of OpenAI would have made statements that sounded plausible but turned out to be untrue. (Paraphrasing someone on Threads here.)
Perhaps he thought AI stands for Artificial Information
The Verge’s coverage is here, though it includes no additional info outside of the fact that co-foudner and President, Greg Brockman, quit upon learning the news.
So, jokes aside, the question is: what was he not being candid about? He was very publicly leading the company before this happened and it seemed to be going well!
No outsiders know. Microsoft, positioned to be an insider, apparently did not know (at least originally) They may have been informed by now And Brockman was not in on it, and the company still wanted him despite keeping him out of the loop.
Strange structure with non-profit and for profit bits of the company. There seem to be two potential causes for rift.
Money. There is a lot sloshing around. Was everyone frank about how much money they had access to? And apparently the enterprise itself needs a lot of money to buy the compute that makes this all work. Difficult for a non-profit.
“Dangers” of AI. Full-steam ahead or the is the end of human civilization? Are AI’s flawed as humans are with racism, sexism, lying or whatever and how to deal with this or is it possible or it such a ball of wax that we should just live with it (like social media).
With classic corporations in the capitalist system, basically profit is the driver and everyone is on the board is onboard with this. Doing good is not the main deal. This organization seems peculiar with idealists mixed in with what turned into remarkably quickly the hottest thing worth billions.
I hear complaints here about subscriptions. A few days ago, I tried to sign up for $20.00 a month to get ChatGPT version 4 etc, and I failed! They wouldn’t take my money!
The wording of the dismissal is not the usual pattern when a CEO is pushed out. Usually, this is all papered over with “personal reasons”, “more time with family”, “a new direction” etc. In this case, there does not seem to be much covering up the anger. And the abruptness is impressive.
Interesting story to follow. I imagine both sides will want to spin some kind of a story that is more complete. It is hard not to think that $ is behind this just because there is so much $ involved.
Altman received a text from [Ilya] Sutskever [Chief Scientist and co-founder of OpenAI] on Thursday night asking to speak noon Pacific Time on Friday, according to Brockman’s statement. When Altman joined the video chat, every member of OpenAI’s board except Brockman was on the screen. Sutskever told Altman he was being fired “and that the news was going out very soon.”
Sutskever has increasingly been worried about the long-term safety of OpenAI’s products and is building out an OpenAI team meant to research ways that systems of the future can be “aligned” with human values, according to current and former OpenAI employees.
It is not unusual for partners to fall out, after all Musk and Altman parted ways after Musk tried to take over the reins of OpenAI, but the “hello, give me a call – by the way, you’re fired” nature of the act, without telling the largest shareholder in advance (Microsoft at 49%), is beyond strange. Also, the stuff lawsuits are made from.
We’ll have to wait for the second season of this succession to find out what “safety” means to the usurpers.
I don’t follow this business news closely, so I’m just going to say that at the beginning, but it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that money was a motivator. I do wonder if the board hasn’t been made completely aware of how much money a lot of AI models are losing, and specifically how much OpenAI is losing. At present, there doesn’t seem to be a clear path to resolve this - just because you’ve trained up an LLM doesn’t mean the market then wants to pay for it at a level that is sustainable for your business (and I can easily see that you could spend millions on R&D without a market existing that can recover those costs).
It is interesting that this development happens only a few days after a global AI summit and various countries starting to talk about how they might regulate AI. That further affects profitability.
There is some speculation that he might have another project in the works.
I was giving a masterclass on AI today, and I got to discuss this news with some important people - 60 C-suite execs from the tech industry and other people from across industries, including people as important as the CEO of Heineken.
My one-hour talk became a two-hour debate! It made having to work on Saturday a pleasure. Here’s my take away:
I feel OpenAI’s board and Microsoft were incompatible, like WhatsApp and Facebook’s (where the WhatsApp founders left soon after the buyout due to disagreements on privacy). OpenAI started as an open-source organization, intending to contribute to open source projects. Then, after Microsoft invested in them, they instantly became “ClosedAI” and stopped releasing their algorithms. Microsoft has been trying to monetize it while the board wanted to build beneficial AI, and their parting ways was only a matter of time.
I’m looking forward to what all the ex-OpenAI talent will get up to!
This is clearly a tangent, but say more! What do you teach? No humility allowed
My specialization is machine learning with big data (Scala and Spark), this is what I teach day to day.
I transitioned from professor to academic director a while ago, and this means I teach less (I miss it!) Most of my talks these days are at conferences and summits and are for corporate audiences. As a professor I specialized in statistics, algorithms and data structures, machine learning, and database design.
Now theinformation.com is reporting:
“Sam Altman won’t return as CEO of OpenAI, despite efforts by the company’s executives to bring him back, according to co-founder and board director Ilya Sutskever. After a weekend of negotiations with the board of directors that fired him Friday, as well as with its remaining leaders and top investors, Altman will not return to the startup he co-founded in 2015, Sutskever told staff. Emmett Shear, co-founder of Amazon-owned video streaming site Twitch, will take over as interim CEO, Sutskever said”
Apparently three senior researchers and dozens of OpenAI staffers have already resigned.
Satya Nadella’s “Tweet” is fun:
We remain committed to our partnership with OpenAI (…) We look forward to getting to know Emmett Shear and OAI’s new leadership team and working with them.
And we’re extremely excited to share the news that Sam Altman and Greg Brockman, together with colleagues, will be joining Microsoft to lead a new advanced AI research team. We look forward to moving quickly to provide them with the resources needed for their success.
OpenAI → ClosedAI (?) Sounds to me as if Microsoft is moving on.
How to buy OpenAI without the expense and regulatory scrutiny of buying OpenAI
Microsoft always recognized, and swooped in to protect, the assets that the OpenAI board clearly didn’t care to preserve: the key leadership and key employees of the company. It’s hard to measure, but we’re seeing a very large wealth transfer from OpenAI to Microsoft. One which OpenAI under existing governance and management probably will struggle mightily to staunch the blood loss.
Ben Thompson at Stratechery put it this way:
“This is, quite obviously, a phenomenal outcome for Microsoft. The company already has a perpetual license to all OpenAI IP (short of artificial general intelligence), including source code and model weights; the question was whether it would have the talent to exploit that IP if OpenAI suffered the sort of talent drain that was threatened upon Altman and Brockman’s removal. Indeed they will, as a good portion of that talent seems likely to flow to Microsoft; you can make the case that Microsoft just acquired OpenAI for $0 and zero risk of an antitrust lawsuit”
One could speculate that perhaps some of the “not consistently candid” activities that the feckless OpenAI board fired Altman for were dealings with Microsoft. Microsoft is always super aggressive when ingesting IP from acquisitions, but not necessarily efficient when it comes to putting the IP to work in Microsoft’s products. Let’s wait to see how long Altman has patience for the internal MS grind before jumping out of MS’s arms again.
The way things are going he might not be there tomorrow, and some are wondering if OpenAI will survive the week. They have named three CEOs in two days and 90 percent of their employees have called for the entire board to resign stating:
“We, the undersigned, may choose to resign from OpenAl and join the newly announced Microsoft subsidiary run by Sam Altman and GregBrockman. Microsoft has assured us that there are positions for all OpenAl employees at this new subsidiary should we choose to join. We will take this step imminently, unless all current board members resign, and the board appoints two new lead independent directors, such as Bret Taylor and Will Hurd, and reinstates Sam Altman and Greg Brockman.”
Microsoft stock closed at an all time high today giving them a market cap of $2.81T.
(At least until the stock exchange opens in the morning.)
This is getting ridiculous at this point. Not only concerning OpenAI…
If this drama is a representiation of the quality of their AI products, then … nighty night!