Breathe a sigh of relief, AI fans and users of the hit ChatGPT app on mobile. The chaos that just rocked the emerging world of artificial intelligence – revealing many of its star players as being infinitely more human and fallible than the neural networks they were busy creating – is now over.
If today’s news is to be believed, Sam Altman will be returning as CEO of OpenAI – the company behind the increasingly popular ChatGPT content creation platform and app – exactly as he was last Thursday before his own board decided to sack him.
Between then and now we’ve seen:
- Altman randomly offed by his board for not being “consistently candid with his communications” with no further explanation given.
- His co-founder Greg Brockman given the boot mere minutes later.
- An AI industry (and offshots) aghast, placing far more prominence on Altman’s importance and ability to make good the AI dream than perhaps even he realised.
- Industry leaders piling on to praise Altman and criticise OpenAI’s previously beloved board.
- Open angsty regret from one board member for he and his colleague’s actions.
- Altman suggesting that he may return to OpenAI as if nothing had happened.
- Then accepting a job at Microsoft announced by chairman and CEO Satya Nadella himself.
- Which triggered share price boom at Microsoft while throwing OpenAI’s planned flotation in jeopardy.
- 743 of 770 OpenAI staff signing a petition demanding the removal of its board.
- Before a high-on-life money-ain’t-nothing-but-a-thing Microsoft openly offered ALL of OpenAI’s defectors a job at Microsoft.
- Before about-turning to say that Altman WOULDN’T be joining Microsoft but that they would continue working with Altman and OpenAI in “any configuration”.
- Before Altman, this morning, confirmed that he WOULD be returning to OpenAI like nothing had happened.
- Oh. Apart from the the board that been sacked him have been sacked instead.
- And late on Wednesday stories began to surface about the creation of a new innovation at the company (named Q* – Q ‘star’) that would give their AI modelling incredible new powers, the tease/reveal of which (with Altman saying that it would “push the veil of ignorance back and the frontier of discovery forward.”) MAY have contributed to his sacking and start this whole mess rumbling.
All in all, quite the four days…
So what have we learnt?
Firstly we’ve learnt that the future of AI apparently can’t happen without Sam Altman. Ironically for a technology focused on removing human brains from decision making, it appears that the knowledge to do so lies entirely within one guy’s head.
Secondly, we’ve learnt that when you’re the face of the next big thing you’re pretty much the most powerful person on earth, able to sack your sackers and relax knowing that nobody will ever dare to try the same trick again. Blame the combination of Altman being a smart guy plus an impending multiple billion dollar floatation that – if the naysayers were right – would have gone down the pan without him.
(Hey, former OpenAI board. When there’s billions at stake, why risk anything? Durr…)
We can only imagine the compensation package Altman just negotiated for sitting back behind the same desk and how many of those OpenAI shares will now have his name on. But no surprises who’ll be picking the band for the OpenAI Christmas party this year.
Thirdly, we’ve learnt that anyone and everyone in tech agrees that AI is “a thing” and the masterplan apparently already in place for its rollout (and the bucks already allocated their eventual designated home) must not be upset AT ANY COST.
Fourthly, Open AI have a secret Q* project that is going to blow minds to the degree that if Sam Altman mentions it in passing, he gets fired.
And finally – fifthly? – we’ve learnt that OpenAI’s board had no notion as to the importance and repercussions of any of the above. Seriously, guys. Everyone knows that if Sam Altman kills your cat, you’re always better off giving him a pay rise.
Who’s in and who’s out?
OpenAI have confirmed that the new board comprises former Twitter chairman and Salesforce co-chief executive Bret Taylor as chairman, former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and Adam D’Angelo, the only surviving member of the four directors who stuck the knife into Mr Altman on Friday.
Um… Watch your back, mate.
The company said: “We have reached an agreement in principle for Sam to return to OpenAI as CEO with a new initial board of Bret Taylor (chairman), Larry Summers, and Adam D’Angelo. We are collaborating to figure out the details. Thank you so much for your patience through this.”
And as for Emmett Shear, the ex-Twitch boss who stepped in as CEO upon Altman’s departure to take up that “once in a lifetime opportunity”? His stint in the hottest seat in tech lasted less than three days.
The tech industy’s biggest loser wrote on X, “I am deeply pleased by this result, after ~72 very intense hours of work. Coming into OpenAI, I wasn’t sure what the right path would be. This was the pathway that maximised safety alongside doing right by all stakeholders involved. I’m glad to have been a part of the solution.”
Well, after that four days, who can tell? But with the board that sacked him ousted and a new board trying out the executive washroom, you can bet that Altman will be relishing being able to mould the company that he founded with almost certainly almost limitless power. And with co-founder Greg Brockman similarly re-appointed and anointed the pair will have each other’s back’s until the end of time.
Incredibly Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chief executive, remains surprisingly unsalty after having his escape pod rejected, saying: “We are encouraged by the changes to the OpenAI board. We believe this is a first essential step on a path to more stable, well-informed, and effective governance.
“Sam, Greg, and I have talked and agreed they have a key role to play along with the OpenAI leadership team in ensuring OpenAI continues to thrive and build on its mission. We look forward to building on our strong partnership and delivering the value of this next generation of AI to our customers and partners.”
See? Even Microsoft still loves ’em.
And hopefully some of that big name, big money behind the scenes will be resting easy too. If anything the upset has only proved just how key OpenAI is set to be in all our futures with – perhaps – that Q* project being the key to everything…
But before the guys get to make the world a better place, let’s have some business as usual before that OpenAI IPO, eh? Phew…
This article was first published on PocketGamer.biz.