After nearly 5 days of fermentation, OpenAI's high-level personnel changes have come to an end temporarily. Late at night on November 21, local time, OpenAI announced that it had reached an agreement in principle to allow founder Sam Altman to return to the company and continue to serve as CEO, and that Bret Taylor, co-founder of Google Maps and CTO of Facebook, former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, and Quora co-founder and CEO Adam D'Angelo form a new board of directors, including Bret Taylor will serve as Chairman of the Board, while Adam D'Angelo is the only surviving former Board member.
It is reported that OpenAI's personnel changes began on November 17, local time. At that time, the company's OpenAI board of directors issued an emergency statement saying that because Sam Altman was "not honest enough" in communication with him, he was immediately removed from his position as CEO and board of directors, and CTO Mira Murati temporarily acted as CEO. However, the OpenAI board of directors did not disclose the details of Sam Altman's "lack of candor and candour".
In addition, OpenAI's board of directors announced that Greg Brockman, the company's co-founder and president, will step down as chairman of the board of directors, but will continue to serve in the company's role and report to the CEO. Greg Brockman said, "Based on today's news, I'm resigning." Subsequently, OpenAI's employees and executives, including Jakub Pachocki, research director, Aleksander Madry, risk assessment team leader, and Szymon Sidor, senior researcher, also announced their departures.
In response, Sam Altman posted multiple responses on social platforms. One of them reads, "Today was a strange experience in many ways. It's kind of like reading a memorial for you while you're still alive." Sam Altman did not respond to OpenAl's board of directors accusing it of being "not honest enough". Sam Altman has also said that he is interested in forming a new AI company, and Greg Brockman is expected to join as well.
It's important to note that OpenAI, founded in 2015, started as a non-profit organization. But for the sake of development, in 2019, OpenAI established OpenAI Global LLC, a "limited profit entity" under the leadership of Sam Altman, to receive financing. At the same time, the company has a unique governance structure that remains controlled by its non-profit parent company as well as its board of directors. Prior to this change, OpenAI's board of directors consisted of six people, including Sam Altman, Greg Brockman, and Adam D'Angelo, as well as Ilya Sutskever, the company's chief scientist, Tasha McCauley, a technology entrepreneur, and Helen Toner of the Georgetown Center for Security and Emerging Technologies.
It is understood that after the announcement of the above decision by the OpenAI board of directors, it was reported that investors, including Microsoft, Thrive Capital, Tiger Global Fund, etc., put pressure on the OpenAI board of directors to revoke the decision to remove Sam Altman CEO and director. At the same time, it was also reported that Sam Altman was "ambivalent" about returning to OpenAI and asked for a reorganization of the company's board of directors.
According to relevant reports, OpenAI's board of directors has agreed to resign in principle and allowed Sam Altman and Greg Brockman to return, but has always refused to formally resign. In addition, some OpenAI employees also spontaneously organized themselves to give the board of directors an ultimatum, saying that if they did not resign all by 5 p.m. local time on November 18, and Sam Altman and Greg Brockman were reinstated, they would resign en masse.
Then, on November 18, Mira Murati, who became the interim CEO of OpenAI, invited Sam Altman back to the company for negotiations. On November 19, local time, Sam Altman and Greg Brockman returned to OpenAI's San Francisco headquarters as "visitors" to negotiate with the board of directors, in which Sam Altman once posted, "This is the first and last time I wear a visitor badge."
Later that day, Ilya Sutskever issued an internal memo saying that while the company's top brass had worked to get founder Sam Altman back as CEO, the latter had made it clear that he would not return. At the same time, Ilya Sutskever also revealed that Emmett Shear, co-founder and CEO of Amazon's game live streaming platform Twitch, will serve as the interim CEO of OpenAI.
Then in the early morning of November 20 local time, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced that Sam Altman, Greg Brockman and others will join Microsoft to co-lead a new artificial intelligence research team, and welcome other departed OpenAI employees to join. To which Sam Altman responded, "the mission continues."
However, this result was not recognized by OpenAI employees, with more than 95% of OpenAI employees, including Ilya Sutskever and Mira Murati, signing a joint letter stating that they would resign en masse unless the board resigns and Sam Altman is reappointed. At the time, Ilya Sutskever said, "I never wanted to hurt OpenAI. I love what we've built together, and I'm going to do whatever it takes to bring the company back together." In addition, Emmett Shear, the third CEO and second interim CEO of OpenAI, also said that if the OpenAI board of directors could not clearly inform the reason for the dismissal of Sam Altman, it would propose to leave.
Since then, OpenAI's board of directors has been negotiating again with Sam Altman and others until the results are announced.
After OpenAI's statement on the evening of November 21, local time, Sam Altman posted on social platforms, "I love OpenAI, everything I have done in the past few days is to maintain this team and its mission. When I decided to join Microsoft on Sunday night, it was clear that this was the best option for me and my team. And with the support of the new board and Satya Nadella, I look forward to returning to OpenAI and building a strong partnership with Microsoft." Greg Brockman also said, "Amazing progress has been made today. We will be stronger and more unified than ever".
Satya Nadella said, "We are encouraged by the changes in OpenAl's Board of Directors. We believe that this is the first step towards more stable, informed and effective governance. Sam Altman, Greg Brockman, and I have spoken and agreed that they can play a key role with the OpenAl leadership team to ensure that OpenAl continues to grow and build on its mission. We look forward to building strong partnerships and delivering the value of the next generation of Al to our customers and partners."
It is worth mentioning that a few days ago, it was also reported that Sam Altman is still interested in returning to the OpenAI board of directors, and Microsoft is also trying to get a seat on the OpenAI board after this incident.
As for the reason for this personnel change, some people believe that it may be related to the dispute between Sam Altman and Ilya Sutskever's concept of AI safety, that is, Ilya Sutskever, who adheres to the "security doctrine", believes that Sam Altman's recent measures are too radical. And according to Greg Brockman, the decision to dismiss Sam Altman as CEO and director was made without his knowledge, Ilya Sutskever, and three others.
However, after Ilya Sutskever stepped in to retain Sam Altman, there were reports that the personnel changes may be led by someone else, such as Adam D'Angelo, because the Poe Bot launched by Quora, which he manages, competes with OpenAI's GPTs.
In addition, there are rumors that before Sam Altman's dismissal, several researchers sent a warning letter to the OpenAI board of directors warning that a powerful artificial intelligence discovery could threaten humanity, and the project was called "Q*" (Q-star). The previously undisclosed letter and concerns about general AI technology may have been one of the key reasons for OpenAI's board of directors to fire Sam Altman, the source revealed.