Sam Altman, the head of artificial intelligence firm OpenAI, has been ousted by the company’s board, which said it had lost confidence in his ability to lead the company. The board said Mr Altman had not been “consistently candid with his communications”, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities.
The maker of the ChatGPT bot, OpenAI is behind a wave of excitement about artificial intelligence. Mr Altman helped launch the firm. The 38-year-old had also become a spokesman of sorts for the burgeoning industry, appearing before Congress this year to testify about new rules for artificial intelligence.
OpenAI president and co-founder Greg Brockman announced he had quit his role at the company following Mr Altman’s ousting.
OpenAI started in 2015 as a non-profit company. It restructured in 2019 and is now backed by Microsoft, which has invested billions.
Just weeks ago, OpenAI was reportedly in talks to sell shares in the company to investors at a price that would value it at more than $80bn (£64bn).
The company said its board members - who include an OpenAI chief scientist, the head of popular question and answer app Quora, and an AI researcher affiliated with Georgetown University - did not have shares in the firm and that their fundamental governance responsibility was to “advance OpenAI’s mission and preserve the principles of its Charter”.
The company said chief technology officer, Mira Murati, would take over as interim chief, effective immediately, while the board searches for a permanent replacement.
Altman sounded really upbeat in his note on X (what do they call them. . . Xs?). Maybe he was planning on his next moves and not telling the board. I wonder if they can enforce a non-compete clause on someone they fired.
In a statement on Friday, Open AI’s board “no longer has confidence in his ability to lead” and said new leadership is “necessary” as the company moves forward, said a statement posted on its website. He is likewise leaving the company’s board.
Reading between the lines, this suggests there was something he either had or had not told them - and somehow he’s been caught out. The wording is so powerful, it almost sounds personal.
There were only 6 people on that board, including Mr Brockman and Mr Altman. If they were indeed blindsided, that means this decision was taken by just 4. What happened to make this small group act so decisively and so quickly?
Oopsie, if this article is right, the board of OpenAI is asking (begging?) Sam Altman to come back. Altman is ambivalent about going back. Several senior researchers and the President will join Altman if he leaves. They’re already discussing starting a new company.
That’s how the article sounds. But it would be hard to justify that reasoning to investors so I’m guessing that’s not the words that were used. The whole thing sounded very vague. There was another theory embedded in the article that it could also be, something about ego. There’s something about the ego angle that seems more likely to me.
That’s the problem. Corporate boards of directors are accountable to the investors. They are supposed to be acting in the best interest of the corporation to protect the investor’s interests. That’s the only reason they have the power to oust the CEO. Because the board didn’t intend to justify their decision as a protection of the investors, they are in hot water.
It makes the company look bad.
As it looks now, MS will be demanding a seat on the board and the original board members might be rearranged with some of them disappearing from the board.
Based on this article, what spooked the board is Altman’s announcement that he wanted users to be able to create their own version of ChatGPT.
I don’t understand the reaction since AI companies are already doing that, and it doesn’t explain what Altman is accused of hiding.
That article goes on to say what I’ve already suggested:
The bizarre structure of OpenAI’s board complicated matters.
The company is a nonprofit. But Altman, Brockman and Chief Scientist Ilya Sutskever in 2019 formed OpenAI LP, a for-profit entity that exists within the larger company’s structure. That for-profit company took OpenAI from worthless to a valuation of $90 billion in just a few years – and Altman is largely credited as the mastermind of that plan and the key to the company’s success.
When Altman set up OpenAI LP, the new company noted in its charter that it remained “concerned” about AI’s potential to “cause rapid change” for humanity. That could happen unintentionally, with the technology performing malicious tasks because of bad code – or intentionally by people subverting AI systems for evil purposes. So the company pledged to prioritize safety – even if that meant reducing profit for its stakeholders.
Yet a company with big backers like Microsoft and venture capital firm Thrive Capital has an obligation to grow its business and make money. Investors want to ensure they’re getting bang for their buck, and they’re not known to be a patient bunch.
That probably led Altman to push the for-profit company to innovate faster and go to market with products. In the great “move fast and break things” tradition of Silicon Valley, those products don’t always work so well at first.
That’s what reportedly scared the company’s board, which remained majority controlled by the nonprofit wing of the company. Swisher reported that OpenAI’s recent developer conference served as an inflection point: Altman announced that OpenAI would make tools available so anyone could create their own version of ChatGPT.
For Sutskever and the board, that was a step too far.
Research and safety v pursuit of profit and danger …
It’s actually the same deal they had before except the name ChatGPT is owned by OpenAI, but that would eventually have changed anyway.
Sam Altman and Greg Brockman, along with several people from Open AI essentially started a new company with Sam Altman as CEO, backed by Microsoft.
Without Microsoft’s backing, it will be interesting to see where OpenAI goes, but it would be surprising to see OpenAI leading the race with Sam Altman’s new company. The other investors will also have to decide if they’re still willing to back OpenAI.
The discussion of profit vs non-profit is a non-starter. ChatGPT was already monetized.
I’m not understanding the point you’re making. The board can’t hide behind the excuse that they’re partially a non-profit, so they don’t have to look after their investors because a portion of it is non-profit. That would allow for a lot of games.
Microsoft made an investment in the company. They expect that money back in spades. OpenAI’s board has a duty to look after them as investors because OpenAI accepted that money as an investment.
There’s nothing ‘open’ about openai - they should be made to change the name as it is misleading.
In Elon Musk’s own words:
On Friday morning, Elon Musk responded to a comment on his favorite website about OpenAI, the research laboratory-turned-company that he co-founded along with a number of other tech luminaries in 2015. Following up on a tweet by finance writer Genevieve Roch-Decter, Musk wrote “OpenAI ws created as an open source… non-profit company to serve as a counterweight to Google, but now it has become a closed source, maximum-profit company effectively controlled by Microsoft. Not what I intended at all.”
The discussion of profit vs non-profit is a non-starter.
That particular discussion is what has caused the schism and upheavel.
Is it? If there was a schism between the idea of a non-profit vs. a for-profit company, they would have had that discussion when Sam Altman added the for-profit side of the company and when they were in negotiations with for-profit companies like Microsoft.
It’s disingenuous to now say that they just wanted to be a little non-profit after they accepted billions from Microsoft and other big investors and after they monetized ChatGPT.
That’s why I was saying in the beginning that the words the board used were very vague when they were trying to justify the firing of Sam Altman. If they really meant they wanted to go back to being a non-profit, their funding would dry up. They didn’t say that. They made vague assertions about Sam Altman keeping things from them (what things?).
Some of the articles wrote about the structure of OpenAI but in reality, if the board clearly wanted to go back to their non-profit status, the board could do that, but they’d lose funding and most of the good people would go along with it. That’s pretty much what happened as Microsoft did an end-run around the board.