Microsoft has hired Sam Altman to head a new team for advanced artificial intelligence after unsuccessful attempts to restore him as the chief executive of OpenAI.
Satya Nadda, the CEO of Microsoft, confirmed the appointment in a Monday statement.
After a weekend filled with boardroom dramas, the board of OpenAI, based in San Francisco, has appointed Emmett Shear as its third CEO. Shear is the co-founder and former CEO of video streaming website Twitch.
Microsoft, OpenAI’s largest investor has taken swift action to hire a prominent figure in the AI sector. It announced on Monday that Altman and OpenAI’s former president Greg Brockman would lead a new AI team within the company.
We’re excited to announce that Sam Altman and Greg Brockman will join Microsoft as part of a new team to conduct advanced AI research. We are looking forward to providing them with the resources they need for their success”, wrote Nadella.
Nadella did say, however, that he would be open to Altman staying at OpenAI, or moving over to Microsoft. OpenAI’s governance system needed to be changed, whichever way it was.
Nadella stated that Microsoft remains “committed” in OpenAI, although the reference of OpenAI colleagues joining Altman Brockman suggests important staffers joining the top team and moving to the company’s largest backer.
On Monday morning, there were signs of unrest within the OpenAI team. Mira Murati was Altman’s brief-lived interim CEO. She posted a message on X after Microsoft announced that “OpenAI would be nothing without its employees”. Altman re-posted the message, adding a heart emoticon. OpenAI staff members also posted the “nothing is possible without its people” statement in a coordinated effort.
Altman was terminated on Friday, after being accused of “not being consistently candid in communication” with the board. The move sent shockwaves throughout Silicon Valley. OpenAI investors led by Microsoft then tried to reinstate Altman. discussions over an about turn were held at the weekend. Altman tweeted a photo of himself wearing an OpenAI guest pass.
The talks fell through and OpenAI’s board appointed Shear, who was previously Murati’s interim successor, as interim CEO.
Shear stated that he was “in favour of slowing down” AI but wrote on X Monday that Altman hadn’t been fired due to safety concerns. ChatGPT’s arrival, which has surprised experts, politicians and regulators, has raised fears that AI companies will rush to develop products with little regard for their negative effects, such as disinformation.
The board *didn’t* remove Sam because of a disagreement about safety. Their reasoning was entirely different. “I’m not insane enough to accept this job without the board’s support in commercializing our amazing models,” he wrote.
Altman posted a picture of himself wearing an OpenAI badge on X, stating that it was the “first and only time I wear one”.
The Wall Street Journal reported earlier that Altman’s return would be conditional upon a new board of directors and governance structure. Altman was also considering starting a company with his former OpenAI colleagues.
Altman and Apple’s former design head Jony Ive discussed building a new AI-based hardware device, reports claim. Reports also claimed that Masayoshi son, the chief executive of SoftBank, was involved in the discussion.
Altman was fired by the OpenAI board on Friday, causing shockwaves throughout the tech industry and among the staff. The executive is seen not only as the face of OpenAI, but also the AI sector in general. The Verge reported that Altman’s departure would likely lead to other employees leaving.
A report cited a memo by Jason Kwon (chief strategy officer) telling employees that efforts were being made to bring Altman and his other senior colleagues back. Brockman, Jakub Pahocki, Aleksander Magry and Szymon Szydor resigned after Altman left.
Kwon, writing to The Information, said: “We remain optimistic and are working toward a resolution.” “By resolution we mean that Sam, Greg Jakub Szymon Aleksander, Jakub and other colleagues will be back. “By resolution, we mean bringing back Sam, Greg, Jakub, Szymon, Aleksander and other colleagues (sorry if I missed you!)
OpenAI’s parent company is non-profit, and the board runs a subsidiary that is for-profit. Altman was the CEO of this subsidiary. It now has four members: OpenAI’s Chief Scientist Ilya Sukseker and three non-employees.