A figurehead of the AI industry loses his job. There is said to have been a dispute between the for-profit and non-profit wings of the start-up.
SAN FRANCISCO dpa | Dispute over direction at the world’s most important start-up: The development company behind the popular chatbot ChatGPT is surprisingly getting a new boss. Co-founder and company director Sam Altman left his company OpenAI because the board of directors withdrew their trust in him. Altman was the face of OpenAI – and, more broadly, of the boom Artificial intelligence.
OpenAI’s statement on Friday was unusually strongly worded: Altman had not been honest in his communication with the supervisory board. “The board of directors no longer has confidence in its ability to continue to lead OpenAI.” There were no further details. The tech industry in San Francisco and Silicon Valley was left guessing as to what might have happened.
The renowned technology journalist Kara Swisher wrote that the trigger was differences between two camps of OpenAI – namely between the profit-oriented one and the non-profit wing. OpenAI was by Altman in 2015 and among others Tesla boss Elon Musk originally founded as a not-for-profit start-up to research AI. However, over time – and a billion-dollar investment from Microsoft – OpenAI became more and more a profit-oriented company. Musk, among others, repeatedly criticized this.
The official communication already contained a reference to such tensions between the lines. It emphasized that OpenAI was built for one mission: “to ensure that general artificial intelligence benefits all of humanity.” We remain committed to this goal.
According to Swisher, a trigger for Altman’s expulsion was OpenAI’s developer conference, which presented the possibility of developing specialized versions of ChatGPT and making money from it. For the non-profit group of OpenAI it all happened too quickly, Swisher wrote on the online platform X. Some of Altman’s confidants at the company are talking about a “overthrow.” According to Swisher’s sources, Altman learned of the board’s decision just 30 minutes before the announcement was made public.
A few hours after Altman was forced out, another co-founder, Greg Brockman, also resigned. He referred to “today’s news.” Brockman was chairman of the board of directors until Friday and, according to the announcement, was supposed to give up that position but remain with the company.
Microsoft is sticking to its cooperation with OpenAI
According to information from Swisher and the also well-connected industry service, one of the initiators of the action against Altman was The Information Chief Scientist Ilya Sutskever – another co-founder of OpenAI. According to the financial service Bloomberg, there were disagreements over how quickly the AI software should be developed, how to market it and how to minimize risks. Altman’s attempts to collect money from investors to develop his own AI chip also caused controversy.
Technology boss Mira Murati will temporarily take over the top position while the permanent successor is to be regulated, OpenAI said. Altman was in the spotlight until the end: on Thursday he spoke at the summit of the APEC group of countries in San Francisco.
The chatbot ChatGPT can formulate sentences at the linguistic level of a human. Its publication around a year ago sparked AI hype. OpenAI has thus become a pioneer in the technology. Microsoft entered into a multi-billion dollar pact with the company to bring its technology into the company’s products. Other tech heavyweights like Google, Amazon and the Facebook Group Meta presented competing software.
Microsoft emphasized that it is sticking to its collaboration with OpenAI. At the same time, the software giant clearly stated that the AI company could not simply withdraw from the cooperation: “We have a long-term agreement with OpenAI and have access to everything we need to implement our innovation agenda.”
The pioneering role is lucrative for OpenAI: According to media reports, a total valuation of $86 billion was assumed for the sale of employee shares. OpenAI thus rose to the ranks of the most valuable companies not listed on the stock exchange – alongside the video service TikTok and Musk’s space company SpaceX.
While there was speculation about the reasons for Altman’s expulsion, in a brief statement to X he simply wrote that he would provide information about his plans for the future later.
Altman received glowing encouragement from former Google boss Eric Schmidt. For him, Altman was a hero who changed the world forever, wrote Schmidt at X. He couldn’t wait to see what Altman would do now – and billions of people would benefit from it.