OpenAI in meltdown

Is Altman coming back?

Thumbnail showing the Logo and a Screenshot of OpenAI in meltdown

The saga of Sam Altman and OpenAI

OpenAI stunned everyone in the AI world on Friday when the company’s board announced it had fired CEO Sam Altman. The company put out a blog post saying it “no longer had confidence” in Altman as a leader, noting company Greg Brockman would be stepping down as board chair, though he would be staying with the company. That didn’t last long however, as Brockman pulled an “I am Spartacus” moment by quitting soon after.

Media stories soon swirled, suggesting OpenAI’s biggest backer *Microsoft *- which owns 49% of the AI company - had only learned of Altman’s firing and Brockman’s demotion a few minutes before it was made public. Needless to say, Microsoft - which has invested $13 billion in OpenAI - saw its stock price drop by a 1% on the frankly wild news.

Saturday rolled around, and there were reports that Altman was ousted for doing deals without the board’s knowledge. Meanwhile, on the platform we used to call Twitter, many OpenAI staffers started sharing heart emojis in support of their fallen leader. Despite it being the weekend, OpenAI board’s seemingly had their hands full as more executives stepped down, and several outlets put out reports saying the company was doing a 180 and frantically trying to rehire Altman and Brockman to their old jobs.

By Sunday, the word was Altman was considering a return to OpenAI, but only if the remaining four-person board were themselves removed. At the time of writing this newsletter (Sunday night) the board is still in place and Altman is not (yet) back in charge of OpenAI. But with the way things are going, I wouldn’t be surprised if that didn’t hold true for long.

**Why it matters: **OpenAI is arguably the biggest name in AI, backed by a major tech giant that has pumped tens-of-billions of dollars into the company. However, as has come to sharp relief over the weekend, OpenAI is a non-profit that oversees commercial endeavors like ChatGPT and Dall-E; while there is a _lot _of speculation about what is playing out at OpenAI, it seems there is friction about what the organization wants - and just who gets to decide that.

The New York Times | Link to story (paywall).

Musk weighs in

With everything going on with OpenAI, it seems everyone and their dog wants to know what’s happening - including Elon Musk.

Musk confidante (and former colleague) David Sacks took to X** **to give his opinion on the chaos at OpenAI, stating “the nonprofit should be converted to a C-corp, and Elon should get shares for putting in the first $40M+.” 

Musk responded to the post, suggesting that, because of the “risk and power” of advanced AI, OpenAI’s board should explain why they “felt they had to take such drastic action” in getting rid of Altman.

**Why it matters: **As Sacks highlights, Musk was an early backer of OpenAI, but he later soured on the organization after he reportedly sought to take it over in 2018. More recently, Musk and Altman have sparred over their competing visions of AI, so don’t be too surprised if he has more to say about everything going on at OpenAI.

Business Insider | Link to story.

Meta retires Responsible AI unit

Meta **has disbanded its Responsible AI (RAI) team, according to **The Information.

RAI was established in 2019 to advise Meta (or Facebook, as it was then known) on its AI projects, including uncovering potential bias within training models.

A Meta spokesperson said the company will “continue to prioritize and invest in safe and responsible AI development,” noting former RAI staffers will “continue to support relevant cross-Meta efforts.”

**Why it matters: **It’s an interesting time for Meta to break up its RAI squad - particularly as lawmakers around the globe are focusing more of their attention on AI.

The Information | Link to story (paywall).

Profile Picture of Tom Wilton

Written By: Tom Wilton

Lead Newsletter Writer

Published Date: Nov 20, 2023

OpenAI fired its CEO, and then things got weird.