In a surprise twist following Friday’s unexpected firing of OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, the artificial intelligence leader may be considering a return.
Several reports, including Wall Street Journal And New York Times, cited unnamed sources who said the board had doubts about the firing and had asked Altman to return. Altman is considering the offer, the sources reportedly said.
It would mark a shocking reversal of one of the most bizarre chapters in Silicon Valley’s leadership changes — and a key decision that could affect control over the future of AI, one of the key technologies expected to open up the way for decades to come.
OpenAI did not respond to requests for comment.
The explosive change of directionwhich shook a giant of the artificial intelligence industry, happened extremely quickly, said Greg Brockman, co-founder and former president of the company, in a post onformerly known as Twitter.
Altman’s firing happened Friday as abruptly as it happened in public, according to one of the company’s co-founders, who said he was also demoted and later resigned.
A key factor in Altman’s ouster was the presence of the tensions between Altman, who favored more aggressive development of AI, and the members of the OpenAI board of directors, who wanted to act with more caution, according to CNN contributor Kara Swisherwho spoke with sources close to the crisis.
Brockman’s message, which appeared to be a joint statement speaking on behalf of himself and Altman, said the two men were “still trying to figure out exactly what happened” but summarized the sequence of events that led to to Altman’s dismissal.
On Thursday evening, Altman received a text message from Ilya Sutskever, another co-founder of OpenAI and its chief scientist, Brockman said. The text message asked Altman to attend a meeting the next day.
“Sam joined a Google Meet and the whole board except Greg was there,” Brockman said, referring to himself. “Ilya told Sam that he was going to be fired and that the news would be out very soon.”
“At 12:19 p.m., Greg received a text message from Ilya asking for a quick call,” Brockman continued. “At 12:23, Ilya sent a Google Meet link. Greg was informed that he was being removed from the board (but was vital to the company and would retain his role) and that Sam had been fired. Around the same time, OpenAI published a blog post.
According to SwisherAltman only learned of the meeting’s topic 30 minutes ago.
After learning he had been ousted as board chairman, Brockman subsequently announced he was leaving the company.
The board’s decision was driven by Sutskever’s concerns, which appear to have been exacerbated by the recent OpenAI developer conference and the announcement a way for everyone to create their own versions of ChatGPT, Swisher said., citing his sources. Swisher added that it represented “a moment of inflection where Altman pushed too far, too fast” for Sutskever, who “put the plank on his side.”
In its announcement of Altman’s dismissal, OpenAI claimed that Altman had not been sufficiently “candid” with the board and had hindered the board’s ability to carry out its responsibilities .
The suddenness of the decision was reflected in the fact that some of OpenAI’s most important partners were left in the dark.
Microsoft, which has invested billions in OpenAI and integrated its technology into the Bing search engine, was only informed of Altman’s firing “just before” the public announcement, Swisher saidwhile employees were not warned in advance.
On Friday evening, Altman posted on X that he “loved working with such talented people” at OpenAI and that he “will have more to say about what’s next later.”
He added that “if I start leaving, the Openai board should sue me for the full value of my shares.”
In his post, Brockman hinted that he and Altman may already be moving on. “Please don’t waste time worrying. Everything will be fine,” Brockman said. “Greater things will come soon. »
CNN has reached out to OpenAI for comment on Brockman and Swisher’s accounts of how the events unfolded.
In announcing Altman’s firing, OpenAI said Chief Technology Officer Mira Murati would serve as interim CEO.
In a statement posted on its website, OpenAI said that Murati is “exceptionally qualified” and that the company has “the utmost confidence in her ability to lead OpenAI during this transition period.”
Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images
Mira Murati, chief technology officer of OpenAI, speaks at the Wall Street Journal’s WSJ Tech Live conference in Laguna Beach, California, October 17, 2023. (Photo by Patrick T. Fallon / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)
Murati, 34, has been part of OpenAI’s management team for five years, according to the company. The statement said she will come as the board “conducts a formal search for a permanent CEO.”
The move immediately catapults Murati – already an important figure in AI – as one of the most high-profile and recognizable women in the tech industry.
And that puts her at the helm of the company as questions revolve around what Altman’s ouster means, the direction of the board and even the purpose of the company and artificial intelligence itself.
But in a way, it’s familiar territory for Murati, a Dartmouth-trained engineer. In July, when OpenAI’s head of trust and safety announced his intention to resign, Murati took over as interim manager of that team.
Murati has previously spoken about his high hopes for AI. In 2022, for example, she told CNN that AI “is really an extension of the human mind, and I hope we figure out how to deploy it in a way that is robustly beneficial and effective.”
Whoever was in charge, OpenAI faced a multitude of challenges even before the senior management shakeup. There are a growing number of competitors and startups in the AI space and increased regulations from governments could hamper the growth of the industry.