Over the weekend, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman was pushed out as head of the company by his board, as four of the six members voted to oust the longtime face of its AI efforts and biggest success, ChatGPT.
Since then, a string of rapid developments about the company have ricocheted across the headlines of the tech press and Twitter feeds about what comes next.
While the details about Altman’s departure aren’t clear yet (though theories have abounded), rumors have flown around about what will happen next.
First, it seemed like Altman would go to Microsoft to lead a research team there, according to an announcement from both Microsoft and Altman. But Altman also was in touch with OpenAI’s board, including Ilya Sutskever, an OpenAI cofounder and board member who is Chief Scientist for the company.
The move would have been a coup for Microsoft, which already plays an important role in AI, notably in providing the computing power for OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Microsoft invested a billion dollars in the company in 2019, and used tens of thousands of chips to build a supercomputer to handle the load from OpenAI’s projects, reported Bloomberg in March.
Altman’s seemingly forced departure from OpenAI and move to Microsoft precipitated an employee revolt at OpenAI, with a wave of protests posted on X over the weekend, including many OpenAI employees claiming on their feeds that “OpenAI is nothing without its people.”
That followed employees reacting to a tweet by Altman announcing his departure with heart emojis and was followed up by Altman reacting to the tweets from the employees with hearts of his own.
Then today, Sutskever, who some speculated may have been behind the ousting over concerns about AI safety risk, posted his own tweet apologizing for his role in the events.
“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,” he wrote.
Over 90% of OpenAI’s employees, including Sutskever, have since signed a letter calling for the board to resign and Altman to come back to take charge of the company. If that didn’t happen, they’d open letter read, they’d all leave the company and potentially join Altman at Microsoft.
And at around 2:30pm on Monday, The Verge reported that Sam Altman and his co-founder Greg Brockman, who had quickly resigned after the news of Altman’s departure came out, were willing to return to OpenAI if the remaining board members who’d voted Altman out stepped aside.
“We are all going to work together some way or other,” Altman said in a tweet, the added that “the openai/microsoft partnership makes this very doable,” implying he might still be leaning towards leaving.
But who knows?
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