Update Post: November 28, 2023 9:29 am
The scandal surrounding Altman’s firing erupted on Friday. Four of the six members of the board of directors voted in favor of his dismissal. They included OpenAI co-founder and chief scientific officer Ilya Sutskever and three independent directors: Quora chief services officer Adam D’Angelo, investor and scientist Tasha McCauley, and AI algorithm security expert Helen Toner. .
Even though OpenAI is a hybrid of a startup and an NPO (non-profit organization), Altman’s firing came in the worst traditions of large corporations. The now-former CEO was informed of his firing during a 15-minute conference call, and a public statement from OpenAI’s PR team was released on Friday afternoon in hopes that the scandal would die down somewhat during the weekend. Which, of course, didn’t happen.
The official press release stated that the dismissal followed a thorough review by the board of directors, which concluded that Altman had not been consistently communicative with board members and that this had interfered with his ability to perform his duties. functions and that the board no longer had confidence in his ability to continue leading OpenAI.
“OpenAI was created with one mission: to enable the creation of artificial intelligence that will benefit all of humanity. The Board of Directors remains fully committed to this mission. We thank Sam for his contributions to the creation and development of OpenAI. At the same time, We believe that for the further development of the company, new leadership is needed,” they said in the company’s press service.
To understand how people who do not own shares in a company or play a role in its operations can fire the CEO and co-founder, it is necessary to understand that OpenAI was founded in 2015 as a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating general artificial intelligence. or AGI (Artificial General Intelligence). AGI, according to company representatives, will be able to surpass anyone in the most important areas of economic activity. In this concept, OpenAI was going to function more like a research and thinking group than a startup. The company’s charter explicitly states that OpenAI’s activities are aimed at the benefit of all humanity, not investors or even employees.
This model did not last long. AI is very expensive to develop, and in 2019 OpenAI founded a spin-off company with an “equity benefit” model that could attract top talent and investor money, as well as develop commercial products. However, the board of directors of the nonprofit part of OpenAI retained full control over the activities of the entire company, leading to Altman’s dismissal.
It is curious that among the co-founders of OpenAI was Elon Musk, who left the company in 2018 due to a possible conflict of interest between the activities of OpenAI and Tesla.
Musk immediately reacted to Altman’s firing, saying the potential dangers of artificial intelligence are so great that OpenAI, the world’s most powerful artificial intelligence company, must reveal the reason it fired its CEO.
Although OpenAI never explained the true reasons for the dismissal, external and internal experts believe that the “revolution” that took place in the company was the result of a conflict between Altman and Sutzwecker, who viewed OpenAI’s development strategy differently.
Sam Altman is a successful entrepreneur and former president of one of the most famous venture capital funds in the world, Y Combinator. At just 23 years old, Altman was named “Best Young Tech Entrepreneur” by BusinessWeek. And in 2015, Forbes named him the best investor under 30. He is also an investor in many technology companies, including well-known companies such as Airbnb, Stripe, Reddit, Asana, Pinterest, and chairman of the board of directors of two nuclear energy companies, Helion and Oklo.
It was on Altman’s initiative that OpenAI Global LLC was created as a “limited commercial” division, the initial goal of which was to attract investments from venture capital funds and sell the company’s products.
Largely thanks to Altman, a partnership with Microsoft was concluded, according to which the IT giant invested $13 billion in OpenAI and provided its cloud computing power to train ChatGPT.
Altman wanted OpenAI to develop in a startup paradigm, that is, as quickly as possible, attracting investments and quickly introducing its products into enterprise solutions.
Ilya Sutsveker, a native of Nizhny Novgorod and scientific director of OpenAI, considered one of the leading scientists in the field of computer science, artificial intelligence and machine learning, sees OpenAI’s mission differently. At OpenAI, Sutzkever played a key role in developing large language models, including GPT-2, GPT-3, and the DALL-E text-to-image model. However, Sutskever has recently focused on the potential dangers of AI, especially the prospect of super-powered AI that could surpass human cognitive abilities, which he believes could happen within the next ten years.
The head of the FusionBrain scientific group of the AIRI Institute, candidate of technical sciences Andrei Kuznetsov, told RG that, despite the fact that at the moment there are no officially confirmed details about the reasons for Altman’s dismissal from OpenAI, one of the most Popular is that within the company there was no consensus on issues of security, speed of technological development and product marketing.
“Probably, one part of the team aimed to accelerate the production of developments and their early commercialization, while the other focused on a broader study of the issues of “alignment” of technologies to meet the values and goals. In terms of human safety (AI Alignment), this shows that, depending on the future, OpenAI, strong AI and multimodal AI are replacing generative AI in the main trends,” says Kuznetsov.
The resolution of the conflict with Altman’s dismissal occurred on the afternoon of November 19. Emmet Shear, who previously ran game streaming platform Twitch, was officially named the new CEO of OpenAI. Sam Altman and OpenAI President Greg Brockman, at the personal invitation of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, moved to Microsoft, to an artificial intelligence research unit specially created for them. However, the partnership between Microsoft and OpenAI remains intact, including all of Microsoft’s financial obligations.