The upheaval at OpenAI continues as hundreds of employees at the forefront of artificial intelligence innovation have threatened a mass exodus from the company. This comes in the aftermath of the unexpected removal of CEO Sam Altman, who was swiftly hired by Microsoft to lead the development of a new advanced AI research team.
The sequence of events unfolded rapidly, leaving OpenAI in a precarious position. Rumors circulated on Monday suggesting that OpenAI might be interested in welcoming Altman back, and discussions were underway to explore the possibility under specific conditions.
Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, expressed a desire to collaborate with OpenAI and Altman, emphasizing Microsoft’s commitment to working with both entities. “We want to partner with OpenAI, and we want to partner with Sam, so irrespective of where Sam is, he’s working with Microsoft,” Nadella stated in a streamed Bloomberg interview. “That was the case on Friday. That’s the case today. And we absolutely believe that will be the case tomorrow.”
In a strongly-worded letter released to the media, the majority of OpenAI’s 770 employees signaled their intention to follow Altman unless the board responsible for his departure resigned. The letter asserted that the board’s actions demonstrated an incapacity to oversee OpenAI effectively.
“Microsoft has assured us that there are positions for all OpenAI employees at this new subsidiary should we choose to join,” the letter revealed.
Among the signatories was Ilya Sutskever, OpenAI’s co-founder, chief scientist, and a member of the board that ousted Altman. Sutskever expressed regret for his involvement in the board’s decision, stating, “I deeply regret my participation in the board’s actions. I never meant to harm OpenAI.”
Mira Murati, who briefly replaced Altman as CEO, also signed the letter. Altman, commenting on the situation, said, “We are all going to work together some way or other, and I’m so excited.”
Despite pressure from major investors, including Microsoft, OpenAI appointed Emmett Shear, the former CEO of Amazon’s streaming platform Twitch, as its new CEO. This move followed the removal of Altman on Friday, who was accused of underestimating the risks associated with OpenAI’s technology.
Nadella, in his post on X, clarified that Altman would lead a new advanced AI research team at Microsoft, alongside OpenAI co-founder Greg Brockman. Microsoft has invested over $10 billion in OpenAI and incorporated its technology into its own products.
The saga has not only caused a stir in Silicon Valley but has also raised questions about the handling of Altman’s removal. Shear acknowledged the mishandling of the process and communication surrounding Altman’s departure, stating, “It’s clear that the process and communications around Sam’s removal have been handled very badly, which has seriously damaged our trust.”
As the drama unfolds, the fate of OpenAI and its groundbreaking AI initiatives hangs in the balance, with the potential departure of key staff members adding a new layer of complexity to an already tumultuous situation.