If you’re feeling dizzy trying to keep up with what’s going on at OpenAI, the San Francisco startup behind ChatGPT, don’t feel bad. This story is moving at breakneck speed, with more twists and plot changes than a season of HBO’s Succession, with a cast of characters to match.
After being summarily fired from the company he cofounded on Friday, Sam Altman now could be on the brink of being re-instated amid a pressure campaign from angry OpenAI investors. It’s still unclear what caused the board to fire Altman in the first place. The only thing that’s certain is that whatever happened, and what happens next, will have huge consequences for the future of the AI industry.
Here are the latest developments:
OpenAI is “optimistic” that Sam Altman and Greg Brockman will rejoin the company, according to a memo that Chief Strategy Officer Jason Kwon sent employees on Saturday night, per a report by The Information.
Earlier on Saturday, The Verge reported that OpenAI’s board had agreed “in principle” to resign and to restore Altman to the throne, but subsequently “waffled.” The board’s indecision apparently meant that it had missed a 5pm Pacific Time deadline to avert a mass resignation of OpenAI staffers, the Verge reported, but it’s unclear whether the resignations actually occurred.
A group of OpenAI investors are plotting a pressure campaign to force the company to re-install Altman as CEO, according to report by Forbes. The plan involves investors teaming up with Microsoft to threaten lawsuits and withholding of computing resources, multiple anonymous sources told Forbes. It’s unclear if the pressure campaign reported by Forbes is connected to the board discussions with Altman reported by The Verge.
Altman and Brockman are pitching a new AI startup to investors, the New York Times reported on Saturday, citing three anonymous sources. Altman and Brockman were busy sketching out the vision for the new company on Friday night, and discussing which of their former colleagues to include, according to the report.
OpenAI Chief Operating Officer Brad Lightcap told employees in a memo that Altman’s firing was not because of “malfeasance or anything related to our financial, business, safety, or security/privacy practices,” according to Axios. Lightcap’s memo did not provide any additional details on what actually led to Altman’s firing, but reiterated that it was due to a “breakdown in communication between Sam and the board.”
“I’m sure you all are feeling confusion, sadness, and perhaps some fear,” Lightcap wrote in the memo, according to Axios. “We are fully focused on handling this, pushing toward resolution and clarity, and getting back to work.”
On the Friday afternoon before Thanksgiving week, a bolt of lightning crashed into the tech world: OpenAI CEO Sam Altman had been fired. The OpenAI board of directors said Altman was fired from the company he cofounded because “he was not consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities,” and appointed CTO Mira Murati to step in as interim CEO.
But it was very quickly clear that there was more to the story. Microsoft, which has invested $13 billion in OpenAI and infused its technology throughout its products, appeared caught off guard by the news. And OpenAI President Greg Brockman resigned a few hours after the Altman announcement, as did several other important employees.