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OpenAI fires co-founder and CEO Sam Altman, is later hired by Microsoft

Written by Tue 21 Nov 2023

Co-founder of OpenAI, Sam Altman, has been fired by the company for allegedly lying to the board. The ex-CEO of the ChatGPT maker was hired by Microsoft following his dismissal. 

In a statement on 19 November, OpenAI said it no longer has confidence in Altman’s ability to continue leading the company.

“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,” said OpenAI.

Speculation remains about the specifics of the firing. CNN reported that the company was advancing too quickly in the landscape of AI and that Altman was risking a global catastrophe.

OpenAI’s board said the company remains fully committed to ensuring AI benefits all humanity and remains grateful for Altman’s contributions to the founding and growth of the company.

“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,” said Altman in a post on X (formerly Twitter).

OpenAI’s Board of Directors consists of OpenAI Chief Scientist, Ilya Sutskever; CEO of Quora, Adam D’Angelo; Technology Entrepreneur, Tasha McCauley; and Director of Strategy and Foundational Research Grants at the Georgetown Centre for Security and Emerging Technology, Helen Toner.

Former President of OpenAI, Greg Brockman, said he was shocked and saddened by the board’s decision. Brockman quit OpenAI on 17 November despite being told he would remain in his role at the company and would report to the CEO.

“I am super proud of what we have all built together since starting in my apartment eight years ago. We have been through tough and great times together, accomplishing so much despite all the reasons it should have been impossible. But based on today’s news, I quit,” said Brockman in a post on X.

By 20 November, Reuters reported around 700 OpenAI employees threatened to quit in a letter directed to the company. They demanded the resignation of the board and reinstatement of Altman and Brockman. The document was signed by employees including Chief Scientist, Ilya Sutskever, who participated in ousting Altman.

“I deeply regret my participation in the board’s actions. I never intended to harm OpenAI. I love everything we’ve built together and I will do everything I can to reunite the company,” said Sutskever in a post on X.

Microsoft Hires Ex-OpenAI Employees

On 20 November, Microsoft announced it had hired Sam Altman and Greg Brockman to lead an advanced AI research team at Microsoft.

The company said it remains committed to its partnership with OpenAI and has confidence in their shared product roadmap. The company invested £10.3 billion ($13 billion) in OpenAI to date. 

“We are extremely excited to share the news that Sam Altman and Greg Brockman, together with colleagues, will be joining Microsoft … We look forward to moving quickly to provide them with the resources needed for their success,” said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, in a post on X.

In response to the statement, Altman said ‘the mission continues’. Nadella and Altman later responded to concerns online of those who feared the collapse of OpenAI.

“Satya and my top priority remains to ensure OpenAI continues to thrive. We are committed to fully providing continuity of operations to our partners and customers. The OpenAI and Microsoft partnership makes this very doable,” said Altman in a post on X.

During a CNBC interview, Nadella said he was open to staff remaining at OpenAI or transitioning to Microsoft. He added that governance at OpenAI needed to change no matter where Altman was hired.

In July, Microsoft, Google, OpenAI, and Anthropic formed the Frontier Model Forum to focus on ensuring the safe and responsible development of AI models.

Image Credit: Reuters

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Written by Tue 21 Nov 2023

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