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Goodbye and Hello: Sam Altman and OpenAI

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An update on the week-long commotion at OpenAI headquarters has been published on the company’s Twitter this morning: “We have reached an agreement in principle for Sam Altman to return to OpenAI as CEO with a new initial board of Bret Taylor (Chair), Larry Summers, and Adam D’Angelo. We are collaborating to figure out the details. Thank you so much for your patience through this”.

Last week, OpenAI announced that one of the company co-founders Sam Altman was leaving the board of directors and departing as CEO. The message on the developer forum stated: “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”.

Over the weekend, the atmosphere within the corporate headquarters of OpenAI intensified with many employees taking the side of Altman and calling for his reinstatement. Following the resignation of the company’s founding member Greg Brockman, other members of the team expressed their deep frustration and unwillingness to carry on their work with the current leadership. Subsequently, more than 500 out of 750 employees signed a letter demanding that the board resign and Altman be reinstated as CEO.

On Monday morning, Microsoft announced that they hired Sam Altman to lead a new advanced AI research team. Other staff members were also offered employment by the world’s leading tech corporation.

The reasons behind Altman’s forced departure have never been specified other than his inconsistent candidness in communication with the board of directors. Still, some argue that the former CEO might have had disagreements with the rest of the management over the course of the technology development. The Guardian mentions an anonymous source who claims that “Altman has held discussions with Apple’s former design chief Jony Ive about building a new AI hardware device”.

OpenAI is known as the company behind ChatGPT, a large language model that caused much controversy and provoked animosity among creative workers in recent years. Altman’s sudden departure raised questions about the future of the leading AI developer. According to The Guardian, Microsoft owns a 49% stake and has backed with a multibillion-dollar investment. Potentially, the corporation could buy the business and the price of $80bn wouldn’t be an obstacle. However, the most threatening development would unfold if the turbulence within the company disrupted the service of their product. Different entrepreneurs follow in the footsteps of Open AI, for example, Elon Musk introduced his startup xAI offering an alternative pro-humanity version of artificial intelligence. Although Elon Musk was one of those tech-savvy experts who signed a letter calling for a pause in the speedy evolution of AI, his ambition to be at the helm of cutting-edge technology has never dissolved.
Would all this corporate perturbation affect your ChatGPT, you ask? So far, the platform has been working without any major changes.

It’s gratifying that in the world of AI-generated everything, it’s still people who are capable of making a drama. Although the message announcing Altman’s dismissal on the developer forum has two versions, one written by the staff and an AI-generated summary, emotions channelled through comments and social media posts are chaotic and turbulent in a very human-like way.

Author

  • Irina Shtreis

    Irina Shtreis is a music writer, researcher and musician. Her byline has appeared in British publications such as MOJO magazine, The Quietus and Louder Than War. Irina has been a news editor of the latter since 2020.

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