The OpenAI drama takes another unexpected turn: Sam Altman will not return as CEO, but will join Microsoft instead. His successor is former Twitch CEO Emmett Shear.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella personally announced his latest hiring move: Former OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and former OpenAI VP and co-founder Greg Brockman, both of whom were just fired from OpenAI on Friday, are forming a new “Advanced AI Research” team for Microsoft.
“We look forward to moving quickly to provide them with the resources needed for their success,” Nadella wrote. The Microsoft CEO is said to have played a pivotal role in the negotiations over the weekend.
Nadella holds out the prospect of great freedom for Altman. He is to become CEO of Microsoft’s new AI group and “setting a new pace of innovation.”
“We’ve learned a lot over the years about how to give founders and innovators space to build independent identities and cultures within Microsoft,” Nadella writes.
The new interim CEO of OpenAI will be former Twitch CEO Emmett Shear, as first reported by The Information. He replaces CTO Mira Murati, who was only named interim CEO on Friday and sided with Altman and Brockman over the weekend. Her future is still unknown.
Microsoft remains committed to its partnership with OpenAI and looks forward to working with the new OpenAI leadership team, Nadella said.
However, he is “extremely excited” that Altman and Brockman are joining Microsoft. Reading between the lines, those words seem carefully chosen.
Altman’s return fails due to Sutskever’s AI safety concerns
Altman was surprisingly fired by the OpenAI board on Friday, presumably due to disagreements between the board and the CEO over AI safety.
New CEO Emmett Shear is said to be aligned on security issues with Ilya Sutskever, the new most powerful man at OpenAI who masterminded last Friday’s coup.
“My AI safety discourse is 100% ‘you are building an alien god that will literally destroy the world when it reaches the critical threshold but be apparently harmless before that’,” Shear wrote on Twitter.com over the summer.
Over the weekend, it appeared that Altman, with the support of the OpenAI team and investors, would win the power struggle and return as CEO, while the board would leave.
But then came the next surprise move by the OpenAI board: they pulled Emmett Shear out of the hat. As a result, dozens of OpenAI employees are said to have submitted their resignations on Sunday evening. Microsoft is likely to see a large influx of new AI researchers in the near future.
Considering that OpenAI recently put tens of millions of dollars on the table to poach AI experts from Google, this could even be a deal for Nadella. Google and Meta are also likely to benefit from OpenAI’s voluntary downsizing. History will show whether Sutskever’s safety concerns are justified.