Sam Altman may “have more power now” under new OpenAI board, according to AI expert

AI Expert Dr Matthew Shardlow reminds us to stay vigilant in our scrutiny of AI firms

Sam Altman returns to OpenAI under a new board of directors, led by Bret Taylor as Chairman.

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Sam Altman may “have more power now”, a leading voice in AI has claimed. Dr. Matthew Shardlow, a member of the UK’s Centre for Advanced Computational Sciences, shared his thoughts on a truly chaotic 96 hours in AI. He warned that “careful observation of the future direction of the company” is required to ensure a safe path forward.

Fired late Friday, November 17th, for not being “consistently candid in his communications”, Altman looked ready to join Microsoft and lead a “new advanced AI research” subsidiary with Satya Nadella. The move would have seen the majority of OpenAI employees – at least 747 of 770 – resign, to join Sam Altman and Greg Brockman, former President of OpenAI. Fortunately for investors, OpenAI’s board reached a last-gasp deal allowing for the ChatGPT co-founder to return.

“Far from Untouchable”

There is now more scrutiny than ever on OpenAI. Speaking exclusively to PC Guide, Dr. Shardlow believes OpenAI is “far from untouchable” – and that the first essential step in maintaining the integrity of their mission is to bring back Altman into the fold as fast as possible. “Sam Altman seems to have the support of the employees and the wider Silicon Valley ecosystem,” including Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. “He is in a position of great power and has the ability to influence the development of the technology that is defining our generation. If anything, it would seem that Altman will have more power now under a new board than he did previously” continues Shardlow.

With Altman’s return, all eyes will be on him, more than ever before. With great power comes great responsibility, and with 95% of his employees backing him, we can all hope that effective governance will be restored to the firm.

Despite the unprecedented vote of confidence in Altman, we should all remain vigilant, keeping a close eye on the company most likely to create artificial general intelligence (AGI). “OpenAI infamously refuses to release its model weights, despite being named for openness. Whilst I doubt there will be any further reasoning given for the dismissal, careful observation of the future direction of the company under Altman’s renewed leadership should help us to understand the fears of the former OpenAI board members,” asserts Shardlow. “Altman recently attended the UK’s AI Safety summit at Bletchley Park. We can only hope that in his renewed power, he will heed the lessons and accord arising from that event.”

✓ Steve says

Does Sam Altman have too much power?

I have to agree with Dr Shardlow. From the perspective of a futurist and AI-enthusiast, I’m happy to see Altman return to OpenAI. This is where I believe he can be the most productive, and where he has the greatest chance of creating AGI.

However, I wouldn’t be as bullish on it if it weren’t for the oversight of Microsoft, a sensible board of directors, and the independent Frontier Models Forum. AGI is not something we can afford to get wrong. How, then, do you trust a firm to create it within the context of capitalism, where financial growth is incentivised instead of safety and cultural good?

The answer is two-fold. Firstly, you can’t implicitly trust anyone with something this world-changing. Secondly, you can’t necessarily stop them either. And so, we’re all along for the ride – let’s all hope that Altman is the man that (at least) 95% of his employees believe him to be. The one to lead humankind to safe AGI that “benefits all of humanity.”

In Altman’s absence, the board members appointed Emmett Shear, ex-CEO of Twitch, as interim CEO. Shear himself made clear late Tuesday night that he would also resign if the board of directors did not explain the initial firing decision to him. It appears he may never be privy to this information unless the board is forced to explain the decision publicly.

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Sam Altman to return as CEO of OpenAI

Ex-CEO Sam Altman confirmed that he would rejoin OpenAI within days of Shears’ installment as interim CEO. Those others include Greg Brockman, the former President of OpenAI who left (part in solidarity, part due to his own removal from the board) immediately after the firing of Sam Altman.

To summarize the events that led to Altman’s return, the board was left with a clear decision: Either reinstate the former CEO, or lose over 95% of OpenAI employees, who would have immediately joined Microsoft. As a result, the board chose the former, as Altman himself has announced via X (formerly Twitter) this morning.

Sam Altman to return as CEO of OpenAI.
Sam Altman tweets that he is “returning to openai”.

OpenAI announced almost in parallel that it had “reached an agreement in principle for Sam Altman to return to OpenAI as CEO with a new initial board of Bret Taylor (Chair), Larry Summers, and Adam D’Angelo.” With Altman now reinstated and immediately back to making 8-figure decisions, it seems the agreement went through as planned.

OpenAI confirm via X (formerly Twitter) that the ex-CEO will return and that the board will resign
OpenAI confirmed via X (formerly Twitter) that the ex-CEO will return and that the board will resign.