In a surprising turn of events, Sam Altman, the recently ousted figurehead of OpenAI, is set to join Microsoft, putting an end to speculation about his potential return to OpenAI. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced on X (formerly Twitter) that Altman will lead a new advanced AI research team at the tech giant. This move comes merely 48 hours after Altman’s abrupt dismissal from OpenAI.
Emmett Shear, former CEO of Twitch, is stepping in as OpenAI’s interim leader. Shear expressed enthusiasm for the position, describing it as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” However, he criticized the handling of Altman’s removal, stating that it was “handled very badly” and had “seriously damaged our trust.”
Altman, a pivotal figure in the generative artificial intelligence (AI) space, played a significant role in the establishment of OpenAI, renowned for its creation of the widely used ChatGPT bot. The unexpected dismissal on Friday, citing a loss of confidence in Altman by the board, reverberated through the industry, leading to a flurry of events and speculation about his potential reinstatement.
Despite expressions of support from Silicon Valley leaders, including former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Altman chose to align himself with Microsoft, a company that has invested substantial amounts in OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Altman’s response to Nadella’s confirmation of his new role was succinct: “the mission continues.”
Investment firm Wedbush Securities’ Dan Ives noted that Microsoft emerged strengthened from the ordeal, contrasting it with an “embarrassing circus” at OpenAI, which he likened to a “kids poker table” until Microsoft intervened.
Reports over the weekend suggested that Altman’s dismissal had caused concern among current and former employees, particularly regarding a forthcoming $86 billion share sale. Some employees, including senior executives, posted a unified message on X: “OpenAI is nothing without its people.”
Emmett Shear, OpenAI’s new leader, is a former head and co-founder of the video streaming service Twitch. Despite his position at the forefront of a powerful AI company, Shear has expressed concerns about the potential existential threat posed by AI technology, likening it to the invention of “10x more powerful fusion bombs out of sand and bleach.”
The exact reasons for Altman’s removal remain unclear. OpenAI accused him of lacking consistency in communications with the board, hindering its ability to fulfill its responsibilities, without specifying the nature of the alleged lack of candor. Shear has committed to hiring an independent investigator to delve into the entire process.