Published on November 17, 2023, 6:05 pm

Sam Altman, the former CEO of OpenAI, Inc., has been fired from his positions as board member and CEO. OpenAI is a nonprofit organization that governs the AI startup behind notable generative AI systems such as ChatGPT, DALL-E 3, and GPT-4. The decision to remove Altman followed a thorough review process by the board, which concluded that he had not consistently communicated candidly with other board members, hindering their ability to fulfill their responsibilities.

In an official blog post, OpenAI stated that the board no longer had confidence in Altman’s leadership abilities. Altman himself expressed gratitude for his time at OpenAI in a tweet but did not provide further details about his future plans.

The leadership shakeup also involves Greg Brockman, who co-founded OpenAI alongside Altman. While Brockman will step down as chairman of the board, he will remain as president of OpenAI under the supervision of Mira Murati, the newly-appointed interim CEO. Murati previously held the position of CTO at OpenAI.

OpenAI has announced its intention to conduct a formal search for a permanent CEO promptly. The board reaffirmed its commitment to advancing its mission of ensuring that artificial general intelligence benefits humanity as a whole. Despite parting ways with Altman, they recognized his significant contributions to the company’s founding and growth.

Following this development, OpenAI’s board of directors now includes Ilya Sutskever (chief scientist at OpenAI), Adam D’Angelo (CEO of Quora), Tasha McCauley (tech entrepreneur), and Helen Toner (director of strategy at Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology).

Altman’s removal is surprising given recent events such as him presiding over OpenAI DevDay and speaking at international conferences. He played an active role in engaging with regulators and world leaders on matters related to AI policy.

OpenAI’s unique organizational structure, with a nonprofit board governing its for-profit subsidiary, may have played a role in the decision to remove Altman. The company’s for-profit subsidiary, OpenAI Global, LLC, operates under the mission of achieving artificial general intelligence while being subject to control by the nonprofit board. This structure allows the board to determine when AGI is achieved and control commercial terms.

Altman had been instrumental in shaping OpenAI’s engagement with regulators and policymakers worldwide. However, specific details about the missteps leading to his removal have not been disclosed.

Despite Altman’s departure, OpenAI remains committed to its mission and collaboration with key investor Microsoft. OpenAI was initially established as a nonprofit in 2015 but underwent restructuring in 2019 as a “capped-profit” company to secure funding for costly AI model training endeavors. Altman expressed hope that Microsoft would increase its investment to support these substantial upcoming expenses.

As this story continues to develop, both OpenAI and Microsoft have refrained from providing further comments beyond those outlined in the blog post and a statement from Microsoft’s chief communications officer expressing ongoing support for OpenAI and Mira Murati’s leadership.

The implications of Altman’s firing and OpenAI’s subsequent search for new leadership will undoubtedly reverberate throughout the AI industry.

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