A week is a long time in politics and OpenAI!


In a surprising turn of events, Sam Altman is to return as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of OpenAI after the company announced that it had reached an “agreement in principle” for his reinstatement.

The announcement follows a week of corporate drama that unfolded after Altman’s sudden dismissal on Friday 17th November. The San Francisco-based company, known for developing ChatGPT, faced a significant backlash, with almost the entire 750-strong workforce threatening to quit unless Altman was brought back.

As part of the agreement, there will be a reshaped board led by Bret Taylor, the former co-CEO of Salesforce. The new board will also include prominent figures such as Larry Summers, the former US treasury secretary, and Adam D’Angelo, a tech entrepreneur and current OpenAI board member who played a role in Altman’s firing.

Altman, who was fired by the board overseeing OpenAI’s non-profit parent, reportedly made the removal of the board and an overhaul of OpenAI’s governance a precondition for his return. Microsoft, OpenAI’s largest investor, had been advocating for Altman’s reinstatement and, on Monday, hired Altman and OpenAI’s president, Greg Brockman, in a move seen as giving Altman a de facto leadership role over his former employer.

OpenAI has commented on its official account on X. “We have reached an agreement in principle for Sam Altman to return to OpenAI as CEO with a new initial board of Bret Taylor (Chair), Larry Summers, and Adam D’Angelo. We are collaborating to figure out the details. Thank you so much for your patience through this.”

Sam Altman then posted soon after and expressed his commitment to OpenAI: “I love OpenAI, and everything I’ve done over the past few days has been in service of keeping this team and its mission together.” He added: “I’m looking forward to returning to OpenAI.”

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has also expressed encouragement regarding the changes to the OpenAI board and emphasised the key roles Altman and Brockman would play in ensuring OpenAI’s continued success.

“Sam, Greg, and I have talked and agreed they have a key role to play along with the OAI leadership team in ensuring OAI continues to thrive and build on its mission. We look forward to building on our strong partnership and delivering the value of this next generation of AI to our customers and partners.”

The announcement marks a significant development in the ongoing saga, where Altman, if officially reinstated, will become OpenAI’s fourth CEO in five days. Initially replaced by Mira Murati, the company’s chief technology officer, Altman saw successive temporary successors, including Emmet Shear, the co-founder of video game streaming platform Twitch.

Why is this important?

OpenAI is moving so fast that reports of OpenAI researchers recently expressed alarm to the board of directors before Altman’s dismissal, citing concerns that its new AI model – designated Q* (Q-Star), is operating with the capability to solve unfamiliar maths problems, posed a potential threat to humanity due to its rapid development.

Despite the agreement in principle, OpenAI is expected to conduct an independent investigation into Altman’s dismissal and the subsequent events. Altman’s initial firing was attributed to a lack of candor in his communications with the board, though no specific details were provided.

Emmet Shear denied any link between Altman’s ousting and safety concerns in AI development, echoing wider fears expressed by experts about the rapid pace of AI advancement. The resolution of this tumultuous situation will likely shape the future trajectory of OpenAI and its endeavors in artificial intelligence.

Author spike.digital