Altman’s abrupt firing triggered a series of major departures from the company.
Less than a day after Sam Altman was unceremoniously removed from his position as CEO of leading artificial intelligence giant OpenAI, multiple reports have emerged suggesting that the company, or at least its major investors, which include Microsoft, is negotiating to bring him back.
The coup on the six-member board of directors, which included Altman and the company’s co-founder and chairman of the board, Greg Brockman, was led by chief scientist Ilya Sutskever, according to reports in The Verge and The New York Times. It was executed around noon on Friday without Brockman’s involvement and without prior conversations with Altman or the company’s major investors. Those investors (and Microsoft in particular, which has invested some $13 billion in the former nonprofit) were caught off guard.
Could Altman return? The chaos has its roots not only in what Altman was doing for the company, most recently illustrated by a jam-packed DevDay keynote just. a week ago, but on the off chance that he could start something new and compete directly with his former employer, according to Reuters.
A Series of Events Triggered
Altman’s abrupt firing triggered a series of major departures from the company, starting with Brockman. “I’m super proud of what we’ve all built together since we started in my apartment 8 years ago,” Brockman wrote on Twitter, quoting Altman’s previous farewell message. “We have been through difficult and fantastic times together, achieving a lot despite all the reasons why it should have been impossible. According to today’s news, I resigned,” he said.
Many other OpenAI employees followed Altman and Brockman to the door, including three key AI researchers, The Information reported. On Saturday, a significant group of OpenAI employees collectively threatened to leave the company if Altman did not return, according to The Verge, which on Saturday night updated its report to say that negotiations did not meet a 5 p.m. PT deadline set by those employees, “If Altman decides to leave and start a new company, those employees will surely leave with him,” the update said.
Observers have raised the possibility that OpenAI’s research team reached a major milestone a few weeks ago, forcing a showdown between OpenAI’s humanistic, nonprofit origins and its massively successful for-profit corporate future.
A “Terminator” Sort of Doom?
Given near-universal concerns that AI could advance far beyond humans’ ability to control it (a threshold known as The Singularity), a major breakthrough in AI would likely create a divide between people who want to slow things down and others who want to advance even faster.
Industry observers have called the first “slowdowns.” “It would have to be something that Sam [Altman]Greg [Brockman]and the board would agree should remain confidential in the best interest of OpenAI and the world,” RewindAI CEO and co-founder Dan Siroker theorized.
“Furthermore, firing only makes sense if the board can perceive that your actions jeopardize ‘safe AGI that is broadly beneficial.’ Prominent tech journalist Kara Swisher, who has been posting updates on the story on X (formerly Twitter).
Swisher speculates that Altman will demand a change in OpenAI’s governance as a condition for his return. “My guess is [Altman] will return only if (and that’s a big if) governance is changed, and that means Microsoft and some other big names on the board and not those [effective altruists] who think the plot “Terminator exists.”
By Leonardo Perez