Altman met with company board members on Sunday to discuss the possibility of him returning to the organization. But those talks fell through, and Altman was hired hours later by Microsoft to lead its AI research.
A bold overhaul by OpenAI, one of the most influential artificial intelligence companies, will have profound implications for the future of the emerging technology. Here's what you need to know about the Silicon Valley shakeup.
OpenAI CEO Sam Altman Fired, Shocking AI World
Why was Sam Altman fired?
OpenAI's board of directors abruptly forced its co-founder and longtime CEO Altman to leave the company on Friday. In a blog post, the board wrote that his firing followed “a board review process that concluded he had not been consistently candid in his communications with the board, which hindered his ability to carry out his responsibilities.”
OpenAI executives, who say they were blindsided by the move, said the board did not explain the reasons for Altman's ouster. According to a person familiar with the board, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive issues, its members sought to confront Altman, who was well-connected and powerful.
Shortly after being fired on Friday, Altman posted on X, his former Twitter account, that he “loved” his time at OpenAI and that it was “transformational” for him.
Just two days later, amid shock and backlash from investors and the broader tech community, Altman met with OpenAI's board to discuss a possible return to the company. But those talks broke down on Sunday.
Microsoft, OpenAI's largest investor, quickly announced that it had hired Altman to head its AI research and hired former OpenAI president Greg Brockman. Brockman quit OpenAI on Friday in solidarity with Altman.
Sam Altman in talks to return to OpenAI amid rift over AI dangers
OpenAI created ChatGPT, a popular chatbot that has taken the tech world by storm, sparking a flood of investment and interest in AI. OpenAI started in San Francisco in 2015 as a non-profit organization that seeks to create “artificial general intelligence,” or AGI, which is essentially software as smart as humans. Its original mission was to keep advanced artificial intelligence out of the sole hands of huge corporations.
After receiving a large investment from Microsoft in 2019, OpenAI has become a profitable corporation. Microsoft is now the largest investor in OpenAI.
How many employees does OpenAI have and how many signed the open letter?
OpenAI employees loudly protested Altman's firing and Brockman's subsequent departure. More than 700 of the roughly 770-person company signed a letter calling for the current board to resign and Altman to be reinstated.
“Your actions have demonstrated that you lack the ability to control OpenAI,” the employees wrote in the letter. “We cannot work with people who lack competence, judgment and care for our mission and employees.”
Employees have threatened to walk out and join Altman at Microsoft if their demands are not met.
Current OpenAI board member and CEO Ilya Sutzkever was among those who signed the letter, saying he regretted participating in the board's actions.
Who are the OpenAI board members?
The current four board members are Sutzkever, the company's chief scientist; Helen Toner, director of strategy and fundamental research grants at Georgetown University's Center for Security and Emerging Technologies; Tasha McCauley, whose LinkedIn profile says she started working at Rand Corp. as a senior management scientist earlier this year; and Quora CEO Adam D'Angelo.
Altman and Brockman were members of OpenAI's small board before they left the company late last week.
Who is OpenAI's interim CEO now?
Emmett Shear, co-founder of video streaming company Twitch, announced on Monday that he has been appointed CEO of OpenAI. He replaced the company's chief technical officer Mira Murat, who was briefly named acting CEO when Altman was fired on Friday.
Sheer called the offer a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” and He wrote on X that he has a three-point plan for the first 30 days in this role. The first step, he said, is “To hire an independent investigator to look into the entire process leading up to this point and create a full report.”
Nitasha Tiku, Gerrit Devink and Pranshu Verma contributed to this report.