After a company statement earlier Friday indicated Brockman would remain, the exec instead expressed his support of Altman, telling employees in an internal memo shared on Twitter/X, “Based on today’s news, I quit.” Assessing the growth of the company from modest beginnings to one of the most valuable start-ups in existence, he added, “We’ve been through tough & great times together, accomplishing so much despite all the reasons it should be impossible. … I continue to believe in the mission of creating safe AGI that benefits all of humanity.”
Sam Altman, the face of the tech industry’s current embrace of artificial intelligence, has been ousted by OpenAI’s board of directors.
The tech firm said Friday that Altman had been let go after a board-initiated review found that he had been “not consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities.” A blog post added that the board “no longer has confidence in his ability to continue leading OpenAI..” He was replaced on an interim basis by Chief Technology Officer Mira Murati.
Along with the shuffle in the corner office, the company said Greg Brockman will be stepping down as chairman of the board. He will remain in his role at the company, reporting to the CEO.
“I loved my time at openai,” Altman tweeted, sans capitalization. “It was transformative for me personally, and hopefully the world a little bit. most of all i loved working with such talented people. will have more to say about what’s next later.”
Released about a year ago, the most recent version of OpenAI’s chatbot ChatGPT took the conversation about generative AI out of the laboratory and into the living room. Students working on term papers, professional workers developing presentations and millions of others suddenly gained easy access to a vast trove of resources, though it came with significant strings attached. As OpenAI’s valuation soared and Altman and other champions of ChatGPT espoused its potential to drive efficiencies and help speed cumbersome processes in areas like health care and other parts of society, some painted a much darker picture. A group of tech leaders, including Elon Musk, earlier this year called for a pause in AI development pending a more thorough review of its potential to do harm.
Even short of doomsday scenarios involving nuclear codes and machines freezing out their human creators, the issue of copyright has raised alarms in the creative community. AI was a central priority for both the WGA and SAG-AFTRA in the Hollywood guilds’ recent strikes against the AMPTP. ChatGPT is trained to create text and images through a process of feeding material into it. Copyright holders of those works have voiced concerns that the system erodes the value of their creations.
OpenAI had reportedly held talks with investors recently for a new fundraising round valuing the company at $80 billion, making it one of the world’s most valuable startups. Microsoft has invested about $13 billion for a 49% stake in the company.
“OpenAI was deliberately structured to advance our mission: to ensure that artificial general intelligence benefits all humanity,” the board said in a statement. “The board remains fully committed to serving this mission. We are grateful for Sam’s many contributions to the founding and growth of OpenAI. At the same time, we believe new leadership is necessary as we move forward. As the leader of the company’s research, product, and safety functions, Mira is exceptionally qualified to step into the role of interim CEO. We have the utmost confidence in her ability to lead OpenAI during this transition period.”
OpenAI’s board of directors consists of OpenAI chief scientist Ilya Sutskever, independent directors Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo, technology entrepreneur Tasha McCauley, and Georgetown Center for Security and Emerging Technology’s Helen Toner.