OpenAI is suffering a governance crisis that Altman has resolved with the support of Microsoft and much of the company’s hard core.
Last Friday, Sam Altman was fired as CEO of OpenAI due to a review process that revealed he was consistently dishonest in his communications with the board, resulting in a loss of trust, as reported by Silicon.
OpenAI was on search for a CEO . In the meantime, Mira Murati, the company’s CTO, assumed the position on an interim basis while a permanent replacement was sought. The board reaffirmed its commitment to the mission of ensuring that general artificial intelligence benefits humanity and stressed Murati’s suitability to lead the company during this transition period. In addition, Greg Brockman was also stepping down as chairman of the board as part of this transition.
Reasons for dismissal (21 November 2023)
As reported by the BBC, the conflict could have arisen for a number of reasons, including consideration of hardware projects, including the development of an AI chip, which would represent a significant change in OpenAI’s direction. There is also speculation about possible tensions related to the non-profit nature of the organisation and the introduction of a profit-seeking arm in 2019.
Although the board did not accuse Altman of financial malfeasance, OpenAI’s current financial situation, valued at a large sum of money, raises questions about possible pressures to give more power to the for-profit side of the business.
Aftermath of the dismissal
Responses from prominent figures, such as Elon Musk and chief scientist Ilya Sutskever, were of concern and disagreement with the board’s decision. Sutskever and others signed a letter to the board demanding the return of Altman and another co-founder, Greg Brockman, and threatening to leave OpenAI if this does not happen.
Altman’s reinstatement was demanded in a letter signed by more than 700 OpenAI employees, threatening mass resignations if his return and the resignation of the board were not accepted. Microsoft, which has invested significantly in OpenAI, backed Altman’s return.
True to form, Elon Musk, owner of the social network X (formerly Twitter) and former owner of OpenAI, has re-popularised the El Risitas meme, starring Juan Joya Borja, in the context of Sam Altman’s dismissal from OpenAI and his subsequent move to Microsoft. Musk has used the meme to humorously mock the situation at OpenAI, the developer of ChatGPT, by adapting the subtitles of the original El Risitas video to Altman’s story. To make matters worse, Radio Televisión de Andalucía has reminded Musk of the need to pay royalties for the reproduction of content on its channel.
Restoration in office (22 November 2022)
Ultimately, Sam Altman has been reinstated as CEO of OpenAI, the company responsible for developing ChatGPT, just five days after being fired, as has Brockman in his respective position. Most of the board of directors who were involved in Altman’s dismissal have been replaced. The decision for his return was announced along with the formation of a new initial board, consisting of Larry Summers, Adam D’Angelo and Bret Taylor as chairman.
Altman’s dismissal occurred due to differences with the board over the company’s future vision and artificial intelligence. After intense negotiations over the weekend, Altman has returned to his position with the backing of the new board and the support of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. The news also reveals that Altman and Greg Brockman were to lead a new artificial intelligence lab at Microsoft.
The new board, with Microsoft’s backing, reflects confidence in Altman’s vision to accelerate the development of artificial intelligence solutions for businesses and users, despite previous differences with the previous board, which preferred a more leisurely approach.