Not only the firing of Altman himself, but also the revealing words with which the OpenAI board issued this statement on Friday caused dismay throughout the technology world. These words are unusually harsh: “The Board no longer has confidence in his ability to continue to lead OpenAI.”
According to the same statement, Altman “was not always frank” in his communications with the board, which “hindered the exercise of his responsibilities.” The founder (partner), posters and CEO were unceremoniously fired, exactly one year after introducing the world to ChatGPT.
There was no sign of his departure. This week, Altman has been in the spotlight several times with public appearances. Employees and former employees of OpenAI were reportedly shocked following the news released on Friday New York times.
I loved my time at openai. It’s been transformative for me personally, and hopefully a bit for the world. Most of all I loved working with such talented people.
He’ll have more to say about what’s next later.
— Sam Altman (@sama) November 17, 2023
Co-founder and board member Greg Brockman was also completely overwhelmed. A few hours after the news broke, Brockman also announced his departure from the company he helped found in 2015. Several other prominent figures were also bid farewell, making analysts wonder about the future of the leading artificial intelligence company.
According to Brockman, things suddenly moved very quickly on Friday. Altman received a text message asking him to join a video meeting. There, another co-founder (Ilya Sutskever) told him that he had been fired and that the company would issue an explanation shortly thereafter. Brockman himself was not present at this meeting and knew nothing about it at the time.
Sam and I are shocked and saddened by what the Board did today.
Let’s first thank all the amazing people we work with at OpenAI, our customers, our investors, and everyone who has reached out to us.
We’re also still trying to figure out exactly…
– Greg Brockman (@gdb) November 18, 2023
The board’s rhetoric accompanying the dismissal is as harsh as it is vague, which is what started the massive speculation. According to the news agency Bloomberg Sutskever may disagree with Altman on the safety of the products and their recent speed to market. He writes that suspicions of insecurity also exist among some OpenAI employees the information. And Altman’s plans to create a separate chip division won’t be well received everywhere within the company.
The palace revolt is not only a sore issue for Altman himself, but also for OpenAI. The company put itself on the map in November last year with the public launch of ChatGPT, which now has hundreds of millions of users. This immediately made OpenAI the world’s leading AI company, forcing Google and Meta, among others, to follow suit.
Altman has become the face of the entire AI industry and has visited politicians at home and abroad to share his views on AI. Like other Silicon Valley tech entrepreneurs, Altman is driven by a combination of arrogance and existential fear of artificial intelligence. Altman belongs to the group of thinkers and entrepreneurs who are convinced that artificial intelligence will outperform humans in all areas (AI, artificial general intelligence), with all the risks associated with it. At the same time, he also believes that artificial intelligence will bring a lot of good to humanity.
His critics find his presentation to be idealistic, but it also ignores the real, current issues surrounding artificial intelligence. For example, the models behind ChatGPT and image maker DALL-E were trained on countless works by writers and artists who never gave permission to do so and ChatGPT can either intentionally or unintentionally contribute to the spread of misinformation.
The company started in 2015 as a non-profit venture. That later changed, which didn’t hurt OpenAI. Microsoft has invested $13 billion in OpenAI, which is now in the middle of discussions with new investors. They estimate OpenAI’s market value at about $80 billion, nearly three times what it was a year ago. But that was before the exodus of prominent figures.
Altman will temporarily succeed current CTO Mira Moratti. With it, OpenAI will have a president who, like Altman, believes strongly in the arrival of artificial general intelligence. For Altman, there is still a career elsewhere or perhaps a big payday in the future, just as the fired Steve Jobs once did at Apple.
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