The recent departure of OpenAI CEO Sam Altman brought tensions within the company over the potential dangers of its AI technology. However, there may be more to the story than we know.
How It All Began
Ilya Sutskever, a respected AI researcher, an OpenAI board member and one of the company's co-founders, expressed concerns about the risks associated with the rapid growth of OpenAI.
He felt that Altman was not adequately addressing these concerns and was not "consistently candid in his communications," which eventually culminated in his removal from the role by four out of six board members, led by Sutskever.
The sudden move surprised both OpenAI employees and the tech industry, with some likening it to the significance of Steve Jobs' departure from Apple in 1985.
Altman's removal brought attention to a long-standing divide in the AI community between those viewing AI as a lucrative opportunity and those worried about the potential dangers of advancing too quickly.
Despite this, the ex-CEO shared in X his love for the company during his time as CEO.
i loved my time at openai. it was transformative for me personally, and hopefully the world a little bit. most of all i loved working with such talented people.— Sam Altman (@sama) November 17, 2023
will have more to say about what’s next later.
Ex-Twitch CEO Steps In As New OpenAI Head
OpenAI shared that its CTO Mira Murati would step in as interim CEO shortly after the transition was confirmed. However, Murati was replaced by Twitch's former boss Emmett Shear shortly after
Today I got a call inviting me to consider a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: to become the interim CEO of @OpenAI. After consulting with my family and reflecting on it for just a few hours, I accepted. I had recently resigned from my role as CEO of Twitch due to the birth of my…— Emmett Shear (@eshear) November 20, 2023
Shear, with over 16 years of experience with the streaming platform Twitch, has been an outspoken advocate for the proper and responsible use of AI.
While Altman's removal created uncertainty, discussions emerged about his potential return to the company. The board did not specify the reason for Altman's ousting, only mentioning concerns about his communication.
The aftermath witnessed internal turmoil, with key figures such as President Greg Brockman and Research Director Jakub Pachocki resigning in protest.
Despite Altman's departure, OpenAI emphasized that the move was unrelated to financial, business, safety or security practices. The board, which includes influential figures from various sectors, did not offer detailed insights into their decision.
However, Shear explained that before he took the role as interim CEO, he had looked into the reason behind the change, finding out that Altman's removal was not due to any "specific disagreement on safety," and that their reasoning was "completely different."
Sam Altman Moves to Microsoft
The aftermath of Altman's departure left OpenAI in a state of confusion, with employees grappling to comprehend the board's decision — even more now that Altman decided to join Microsoft alongside Brockman.
We remain committed to our partnership with OpenAI and have confidence in our product roadmap, our ability to continue to innovate with everything we announced at Microsoft Ignite, and in continuing to support our customers and partners. We look forward to getting to know Emmett…— Satya Nadella (@satyanadella) November 20, 2023
Following this, several OpenAI executives including Brad Lightcap, Jason Kwon, Mira Murati and Ilya Sustkever who allegedly led the removal of Altman, have taken to X to express their shared sentiments, arguing OpenAI is nothing without its people.
❤️❤️❤️ https://t.co/NL3nqrjKUo— Sam Altman (@sama) November 20, 2023
What Might Be Next for OpenAI?
The departure of Sam Altman poses questions about the future trajectory of OpenAI — who will run it in the long haul, and who will run against it.
With Twitch operating on AWS, the appointment of Shear as OpenAI CEO raised questions about the potential influence of Amazon on OpenAI's direction.
As Amazon may seek to enter OpenAI investments, the tech landscape is poised for increased competition between two cloud computing giants, Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services.
With a substantial number of OpenAI employees transitioning to Microsoft since the developments unfolded might hint at a broader battle for dominance in the cloud computing space. Microsoft's previous $10 billion investment in OpenAI, largely allocated to Azure operational costs, also hints at this possibility.