OpenAI Fires CEO Sam Altman

    OpenAI Fires CEO Sam Altman
    Last updated Nov 19, 2023
    Image credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News [via Getty Images]


    • Sam Altman has been fired as CEO of Microsoft-backed OpenAI, the artificial intelligence startup announced on Friday, claiming that a lack of candidness in the co-founder's communications with the company's board had been affecting its ability to fulfill its responsibilities.
    • News website Semafor — citing an anonymous source — reported that Altman has been raising money for a new venture capital fund focused on hard tech and was seen in good spirits recently as he attended an industry gathering on Wednesday evening, indicating that he was unaware he would be let go.
    • The company broke the news shortly after chief scientist and co-founder Ilya Sutskever allegedly told Altman in a Google meeting arranged the night before that he was being ousted. According to President and Chairman Greg Brockman, he was told via video call minutes later that he had been removed from the board.
    • By the end of the day, Brockman, who also co-founded OpenAI in 2015, had stepped down from the startup. Media company The Information further reported that, following the news, senior researchers Jakub Pachocki, Aleksander Madry, and Szymon Sidor had quit as well.
    • Following Altman's removal, Chief Technology Officer Mira Murati, an Albania-born, Dartmouth-educated engineer, was named interim CEO to provide a "seamless transition" while OpenAI carries out a formal search for a permanent successor.
    • Meanwhile, according to a Forbes report, OpenAI investors are seeking to engage with Microsoft and senior staff members at the tech company in an effort to reinstate Altman. This was echoed by The Verge, which reported on Saturday that the board was in talks to bring him back.


    Narrative A

    The latest developments stem from a power struggle over the board in connection with a cultural clash at OpenAI. While the now-ousted Altman, as well as Brockman, focused on commercialization efforts, the rest of the board members have sought to uphold the company's non-profit mission to create safe generative artificial intelligence for the benefit of humankind.

    Narrative B

    It's too early to assert what exactly prompted Altman to be fired — and the full truth may never be unveiled at all. Yet, it's unlikely that such an abrupt shift results from well-known differences between the board and him regarding OpenAI's mission. Given the board's language in announcing his departure, Altman may have lied to the board, probably circumventing the board in a major, controversial move.

    Narrative C

    This abrupt decision will send reverberations within OpenAI and the tech landscape in general. Once a leading force in the AI race, the company will now be left in disarray as it's likely to face a mass exodus of Altman loyalists, tainting its once invincible reputation. With no shortage of AI trailblazers to fill this new hole, the tech ecosystem should prepare for a new frontrunner.

    Nerd narrative

    There's a 45% chance that Mira Murati will be the next non-interim CEO of OpenAI, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

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