Microsoft has appointed Sam Altman to lead a new advanced AI research team shortly after his removal from OpenAI last week. In response, more than 500 out of 750 OpenAI employees swiftly signed a letter threatening mass resignations, demanding the resignation of the board, and the reinstatement of Altman as CEO.
Notably, Ilya Sutskever, a board member who played a role in Altman’s removal, unexpectedly endorsed the open letter, expressing regret for his involvement and pledging to work towards reuniting the company. The remaining board members, who are non-employees, include Adam D’Angelo, Tasha McCauley, and Helen Toner.
We remain committed to our partnership with OpenAI and have confidence in our product roadmap, our ability to continue to innovate with everything we announced at Microsoft Ignite, and in continuing to support our customers and partners. We look forward to getting to know Emmett…
— Satya Nadella (@satyanadella) November 20, 2023
OpenAI co-founder Greg Brockman will join Altman in Microsoft’s new AI venture. The decision to oust Altman appears to have backfired, as on Sunday night, OpenAI’s board appointed Emmett Shear, co-founder and former CEO of Twitch, as the new CEO.
The tumultuous events over the weekend stem from disagreements within OpenAI’s board, particularly regarding the profit-seeking division of the company. Altman’s desire for faster progress clashed with Sutskever’s comfort level, leading to a clash of values centered around OpenAI’s commitment to safety and its non-profit core.
Also read: Who is new OpenAI CEO Emmett Shear?
Sutskever’s actions seem to be driven by OpenAI’s overarching goal of advancing digital intelligence for the benefit of humanity without being constrained by financial returns. The weekend’s chaos serves as a reminder that OpenAI operates as a non-profit organization.
The reported source of Sutskever’s frustration was Altman’s announcements on Nov. 6th about creating a consumer platform for customizable versions of ChatGPT, GPTs, and the GPT Store. Safety concerns related to autonomous agents like GPTs fueled Sutskever’s belief that Altman’s direction deviated from OpenAI’s core values.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella expressed anticipation in a tweet about working with Emmett Shear and OpenAI’s new leadership team. Shear’s views on AI, as revealed in old tweets, align with OpenAI’s mission statement, advocating for a cautious approach to AI progress.
Microsoft’s acquisition of Altman and Brockman, coupled with its ongoing partnership with OpenAI, has left the future of OpenAI uncertain. The potential defection of talent from OpenAI to Microsoft’s new AI team adds another layer of complexity. While the fate of OpenAI’s pursuit of artificial general intelligence (AGI) hangs in the balance, everything is unfolding rapidly. Altman, quoting Nadella’s tweet, affirmed that “The mission continues,” signaling a commitment to the overarching goals of AI development.