It is day 5 of the OpenAI saga, and it is still delivering shocking twists and turns. When everyone thought Sam Altman, the ousted CEO of OpenAI, would join Microsoft and lead their AI division, CEO Satya Nadella gave cryptic interviews suggesting he wasn’t sure where Altman would end up. Sprinkle in Ilya Sutskever’s post expressing regret over participation in the board’s actions and the threats of mass resignation from more than 500 employees of OpenAI, and you have a tale that will be remembered in Silicon Valley for decades to come.
But if this saga has left you bamboozled, then you need to know the protagonists of this entire show and the role they played in bringing about this cataclysmic event. Let us take a look.
Sam Altman, former CEO, OpenAI
There have been a lot of rumors and claims on what was the real reason behind the sudden sacking of the person who turned into a ‘superstar’ in the field of artificial intelligence (AI). The official reason the OpenAI board gave, however, was a lack of consistency in candidly communicating with the board.
Reports suggest that Altman was fired over a video meeting and the public announcement was made within the hour. An ousted Altman then posted a joint statement with then OpenAI President Greg Brockman, who also left the company. While many thought that would be the end of the story, it turned out that the interim CEO Mira Murati, and about 500 staffers of OpenAI led an internal protest threatening to leave the company if Altman was not reinstated. Altman also reportedly said that he would join back only if was if all the board of directors were removed. He gave a deadline for it too – twice. Nothing came of it. Once again, people believed this was the end of the story.
But one more twist was left. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella came out of nowhere and offered Altman and Brockman a position in the company, asking them to lead the entire AI division. Reports even suggested that Altman could become a part of the same OpenAI board with Microsoft demanding a seat on the table.
But now, once again, it appears that Altman may return to OpenAI.
Greg Brockman, former president, OpenAI
Brockman played the role of the perfect friend, who resigned right after Altman’s firing became known to him, although one influencing factor would also be him being removed as the chairman of the board. However, OpenAi board did say that Brockman could stay on as the president. Brockman later posted a joint statement highlighting how unfairly they were treated. At present, his status remains as unclear as Altman’s.
Ilya Sutskever, chief scientist, OpenAI
Sutskever traversed an entire redemption arc in just four days, starting with being the face of evil who led the summary firing of Altman and removal of Brockman from his post. His involvement in the saga for the next 2 and a half days is not clear, however. Now, the chief scientist may have had a sudden change of heart as he took to X and in his post expressed deep regret for participating in the actions of the board, and claiming to do everything he can to “reunite the company”. Altman responded to it with a heart emoji indicating he did not hold any grudges against Ilya.
Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft
While team Altman and the team OpenAI board looked at this saga as a personal battle, the Microsoft CEO sensed an opportunity. He stirred the pot on Monday by announcing that Altman and Brockman would be “joining Microsoft to lead a new advanced AI research team”. This would be a brilliant coup given that they would essentially bag the biggest talents that made OpenAI into what it is today. An elated Nadella even said any OpenAI employee who resigns from the company will also find a job at Microsoft.
However, it is not sure if these dreams will come true given that Nadella also suggested Altman can go back to OpenAI during an interview today.
Mira Murati, CTO, OpenAI
Now, we are on to the supporting cast of this saga, who still had moments deserving of a mention. The Murati was the CTO under Altman but was appointed as an interim CEO after his removal. She became one of the shortest interim CEOs in the history of corporate America. Why, because she seemed to side with Altman in the fracas with the board. After reigning over the company for the entire weekend, she too was sent packing when Emmett Shear, the founder of Twitch, was named the new interim CEO on Monday.
The OpenAI board
Apart from Sutskever, the other board members include independent directors Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo, technology entrepreneur Tasha McCauley, and Georgetown Center for Security and Emerging Technology’s Helen Toner. These four were involved in firing Altman, removing Brockman as the Chairman of the board, and hiring Murati and Shear as interim CEOs. Altman has said if he is to join OpenAI again, the non-employee board members will have to leave.
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