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Sam Altman and Greg Brockman left OpenAI for at least 4 consecutive days between Friday, November 17th, and Wednesday, November 22nd. The board of directors deliberated a great deal between these dates, ultimately deciding to reinstate the CEO and President of the company before they accepted an offer from Satya Nadella to join Microsoft. That said, tensions are not yet put to rest at the world’s most prominent artificial intelligence firm. What options are left for Ilya Sutskever, Mira Murati, interim CEO Emmett Shear, and the departing board?
Will OpenAI survive without Sam Altman and Greg Brockman?
Sam Altman will return as CEO of OpenAI. In his absence, the chatbot tech firm rested on the shoulders of Chief Scientist Ilya Sutskever, CTO Mira Murati, COO Brad Lightcap, CSO Jason Kwon, interim CEO Emmett Shear, and the executive board. On one hand, if you could split the C-Suite board any two ways, they have at least retained the ‘science and technology’ half. It hardly needs explaining how essential this is for a cutting-edge technology company leading an industry, one breaking new ground in computer science, and whose flagship product is more opaque than a lead window.
ChatGPT will continue to operate as before, ChatGPT Plus users will continue to make custom GPTs, and the platform will continue to turn over revenue. That said, the investors are considerably concerned about how this tumultuous period will affect growth, and the valuation of the company. Thankfully, OpenAI’s technology itself isn’t going anywhere. GPT-3.5, the AI model available on the free version of ChatGPT, as well as GPT-4, GPT-4V, and GPT-4 Turbo, which are only available to ChatGPT Plus subscribers, are still owned and operated by OpenAI. Casual users, by all means, won’t notice that anything has changed.
Even with governance restored, the path towards AGI has already been altered. When will GPT-5 be released? How soon will artificial general intelligence (AGI) be achieved? Do OpenAI’s competitors finally have a chance to catch up and surpass ChatGPT? All of these answers have changed in a single weekend.
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Who will succeed Sam Altman? Potential CEO candidates
We now know that Sam Altman will be succeeded, in a permanent sense at least, by Sam Altman.
OpenAI’s Chief Technology Officer, Mira Murati, was initially tapped to assume the role of interim CEO, and learned this as late as the night before Sam Altman was fired. Instead, the former CEO of Twitch, Emmett Shear, stepped in as interim CEO for a notably brief tenure of roughly 72 hours.
Within that time, he successfully pressed for Sam Altman to be reinstated, telling the board that he himself would resign unless told why Altman was ousted. While the board reportedly declined to comment further on that matter, he learned at the same time as us that it was, in part, related to an AI model called Q*. Able to solve mathematical problems in a different (and potentially more effective way) than OpenAI’s GPT-4 model, it could be an ingredient of eventual AGI (artificial general intelligence) discovery.
In discussions for the interim position, OpenAI reportedly also considered Nat Friedman, the former CEO of Github, and Alex Wang, the co-founder and CEO of Scale AI. Neither of these executives will be the next OpenAI CEO.
We also know that the senior leadership of OpenAI, including every remaining C-Suite executive, has also agreed “in principle” to install a new board of directors. Two names were been suggested in the letter titled “To the Board of Directors at OpenAI“. Those names were Bret Taylor, board member of Shopify and former co-CEO of Salesforce, along with Will Hurd, Republican politician and former CIA officer.
In conclusion, Bret Taylor was named as the new Chairman of the board on November 22nd, 2023. He will be joined by Larry Summers, former director of the National Economic Council and 71st United States Secretary of the Treasury. CEO of Quora Adam D’Angelo will be carried over from the previous board, to remain a member of the new one. Will Hurd has not been finalized as a member of the new board.