OpenAI fallout: Everything that's happened since Sam Altman's firing
Matt Binder, for Mashable:
Artificial intelligence is the current tech industry hype. And OpenAI is by far the leading company in the AI space. OpenAI's CEO Sam Altman was quickly becoming the face of AI as a whole.
That's why it was such a shock when OpenAI's board of directors suddenly announced on Friday evening that Altman was gone from the company. Then, less than 24 hours later, reports quickly spread that OpenAI was looking to bring Altman back. What?!
Altman's Friday evening exit from OpenAI flabbergasted the tech world as there was no indication that Altman and the leading AI organization's relationship was on the rocks. Even more surprising was the manner in which Altman was let go and what exactly OpenAI's board said in its announcement. The timing was also unusual as companies usually wait until after the markets close when making such announcements in hopes of controlling the most damaging fallout.
Shortly after OpenAI's announcement, Altman broke his silence on X, the Elon Musk-owned platformer formerly known as Twitter.
"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," Altman posted. "will have more to say about what’s next later."
Another shocker occurred that same Friday evening. In its post about Altman's departure, the board also announced that OpenAI co-founder and president Greg Brockman was stepping down as chairman of the board.
"Based on today's news, I quit," Brockman posted, adding that he was proud of his time at OpenAI.
Brockman wasn't done after announcing that he was quitting the company he helped found. Late Friday night, he decided to share his version of events of Altman's removal from the company.
According to Brockman, Altman received a text message on Thursday evening from OpenAI's chief scientist Ilya Sutskever about a meeting the next day. At that Friday meeting over Google Meet, Altman was fired by the entire board, minus Brockman who was not in attendance. Brockman says he was later informed he was being removed from the board but being retained in his other roles at the company. According to Brockman, most of OpenAI's management was unaware of Altman's removal until that day. He says OpenAI's then-CTO and current interim CEO Mira Murati was only informed of the news the night before.
Big tech companies like Microsoft have invested heavily in OpenAI. The computer giant alone, for example, has pledged $13 billion to the company. And it's certainly not because Microsoft feels strongly about the AI ethos of the non-profit organization. It is investing in for-profit OpenAI led by Sam Altman.
According to a report from Forbes, while the investors don't have the power to bring Altman back, they've been pushing the OpenAI board of directors to do so. And, apparently, it worked. The Verge reported on Saturday – less than 24 hours after Altman's firing – that the board had reached out to Altman in order to work out a return to the company.
However, an agreement that saw the board resign and Altman and Brockman return to their roles at OpenAI never went through as its Saturday night deadline passed.
OpenAI employees, for their part, have voiced their disapproval of Altman's firing. Some of them have voiced their clear support for the now-former CEO on social media. Three senior OpenAI researchers took a different approach and resigned from the company. According to The Information, those researchers are OpenAI's director of research Jakub Pachocki, the head of an AI risk team Aleksander Madry, and a senior researcher Szymon Sidor.
As of now, OpenAI is assuring its employees that an agreement to bring Altman back is in the works and that it "remains optimistic." Altman has also shared his appreciation for his colleagues.
Altman, though, could still decide to go his own way and start his own AI company. It seems many of his former employees would move there to work with him. And he'd have more control and say over how he runs things too.
As of right now, it seems like anything could happen.
Efforts to reinstate Sam Altman as CEO of OpenAI failed, leading to the appointment of former Twitch CEO Emmett Shear as interim CEO.
This decision follows a tumultuous weekend, marked by a failed 5PM PT deadlines for board members to resign and reinstate Altman, triggering employee support for Altman on social media. OpenAI’s direction remains uncertain amid this leadership upheaval.
Sam Altman, prior to his exit was actively fundraising in the Middle East for a new venture, Tigris. This project aimed to establish an AI-focused chip company to compete with Nvidia in the semiconductor market. The venture was still in its early stages of formation and discussions with investors for an ambitious endeavor in the AI and semiconductor industry.
At 3am EDT, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella posted on X that he has hired Altman and Brockman to run Microsoft’s new Advanced AI Research Lab, and acknowledged Emmet Shear (former CEO of Twitch) as the new OpenAI CEO.
Additionally, OpenAI researcher and board member Ilya Sutskever, who was largely blamed for the ousting, posted