Article: How OpenAI's late night coup de Sam shook the tech world


How OpenAI's late night coup de Sam shook the tech world

OpenAI's leadership upheaval, spanning Altman's departure to strategic hires by Microsoft, deepens amid a rebellion where hundreds call for board resignations, sparking investor concern and heightening uncertainty about the AI powerhouse's future.
How OpenAI's late night coup de Sam shook the tech world

In a stunning power play that rocked the tech world, OpenAI recently saw a dramatic leadership shakeup dubbed a 'coup'. The abrupt removal of CEO Sam Altman and President Greg Brockman, according to reports, has been orchestrated by founding board member Ilya Sutskever.

But in a sudden twist, a rebellion has now brewed within the staff ranks. Hundreds of employees, rallied by Sutskever, are demanding the resignation of the remaining board members. Around 500 employees, according to an X post, have signed a letter saying they will quit if Altman does not return.

Sutskever, who originally masterminded the stealthy take-down of Altman and Brockman, has pulled an about-face and now accuses the board of staging an internal takeover of power.

This shocking reversal has left OpenAI in a state of total chaos and uncertainty, with its leadership structure completely up in the air.

The stunning turn of events began when Sutskever, a deep learning luminary, sent a terse text to Altman last Friday, requesting a noon call. During the call, Sutskever delivered the bombshell news – Altman was summarily fired. 

At the core of this leadership upheaval, as per Bloomberg, lies a clash of philosophies on AI safety. Sutskever advocated for an accelerated push towards commercialising generative AI, exemplified by ChatGPT, while Altman advocated for a more cautious approach.

Sutskever, now the lone remaining founder from OpenAI's original team, emerged as a central figure in this saga. Interestingly, Elon Musk, who helped launch OpenAI, played a passive role; he hired Sutskever, the chief scientist of the AI firm. 

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In a surprising development, Sutskever expressed regret over his role, saying in a post on X, "I deeply regret my participation in the board's actions. I never intended to harm OpenAI. I love everything we've built together and I will do everything I can to reunite the company."

This AI ethics drama has left Silicon Valley in awe, with OpenAI appointing a new interim CEO even as Sutskever pledges to undo the damage. As OpenAI grapples with researchers departing, the coup appears to have created internal turmoil within the organisation. The path forward remains uncertain as opposing factions wrestle for control over OpenAI's future direction.

Here is a timeline of dramatic turns and twists at OpenAI:

Nov 30, 2023: OpenAI has a new board; Sam Altman resumes role

Sam Altman resumes the CEO role at OpenAI, accompanied by the return of Mira Murati as CTO and Greg Brockman as President. The leadership shakeup extends to a renewed board, featuring Bret Taylor as Chair, alongside Larry Summers and Adam D’Angelo. Altman, expressing enthusiasm, lauds the team's dedication during an "unclear and unprecedented" period, thanking contributors like Ilya, Adam, Tasha, Helen, and Emmett. Despite Ilya's departure from the board, Altman remains optimistic about future collaboration.

Altman's immediate priorities include collaboration with CTO Mira Murati on research plans and a commitment to global product improvement and deployment. Collaboration with the board, led by Bret Taylor, Larry Summers, and Adam D’Angelo, is highlighted for reinforcing governance structures.

Bret Taylor, on behalf of the OpenAI Board, expresses gratitude for the community's collective effort in finding a path forward. The board commits to enhancing corporate governance, focusing on building a diverse board with expertise in technology, safety, and policy. 

Nov  28, 2023: Is OpenAI not offering Microsoft a Board seat?

In what seems to be a firm stance on AI safety, OpenAI's new board, is reportedly steering clear of offering board seats to external investors such as Microsoft, Thrive Capital, and Khosla Ventures, despite the recent management shakeup, as per reports from Reuters and The Information. Altman's departure stirred uncertainty about the trajectory of the startup positioned at the forefront of the artificial intelligence surge. OpenAI's principal supporter is Microsoft, with a substantial investment surpassing $10 billion. Khosla Ventures entered as an early investor in 2019, and the transaction led by Thrive Capital to acquire OpenAI employee shares has placed the company's valuation at more than $80 billion.

In a separate development, contrary to alarming reports, OpenAI's internal project "Q*" is likely not as groundbreaking or threatening as portrayed. There's debate about a letter from staff expressing concerns, and some believe "Q*" may simply extend existing work. While the project may enhance language model capabilities, it's unlikely to lead to catastrophic outcomes, and skepticism surrounds claims that it signals a step toward artificial general intelligence.

Nov 22, 2023: Sam Altman reinstated as OpenAI's CEO

Last week, Sam Altman was ousted as CEO of OpenAI by the board, only to be reinstated late Tuesday after a fervent campaign by his allies, employees, and investors. This marked the end of a tumultuous five days for the artificial intelligence firm, renowned for the ChatGPT chatbot. In a post on X, Altman expressed his motivation: "I love OpenAI, and everything I’ve done over the past few days has been in service of keeping this team and its mission together. When I decided to join Microsoft on Sunday evening, it was clear that was the best path for me and the team." OpenAI, in a post to X, stated, "We have reached an agreement in principle for Sam to return to OpenAI as CEO with a new initial board. We are collaborating to figure out the details." As part of Altman's return, OpenAI's board will be reshaped, excluding several members who opposed him. The new board includes Bret Taylor as Chair, along with Larry Summers and Adam D'Angelo.

Nov 22, 2023: OpenAI's clients are eyeing the exit

Fresh reports hint at negotiations underway for Sam Altman's potential return, with the ousted CEO, board members, and the interim CEO in discussions. Meanwhile, The Information reports that over 100 OpenAI customers have reached out to Anthropic, a startup backed by both Amazon and Google. Some are exploring options with Google Cloud and Cohere, OpenAI's rival.  

Nov 21, 2023: Altman may not join Microsoft

While Microsoft's Satya Nadella was keen on bringing Sam Altman and Greg Brockman, as we reported earlier, into their AI projects,  swirling rumours hint that Sam might not go for it. Instead, he's thinking about rejoining OpenAI. Nadella confirmed to Bloomberg that discussions are ongoing with Altman but assured Microsoft's commitment to him and his team, no matter where they end up.

Nov 21, 2023: OpenAI Board exploring a merger with Anthropic 

OpenAI's board reached out to Dario Amodei, co-founder and CEO of rival Anthropic, exploring a potential merger after firing CEO Sam Altman. The board is trying to persuade Amodei to take over as CEO, but he swiftly declined due to his commitment to Anthropic. The 2-year-old startup, known for its chatbot Claude, competes fiercely with OpenAI in researcher recruitment and customer acquisition. The recent dismissal of CEO Sam Altman has led to OpenAI being embroiled in a corporate drama that has significant implications for the AI powerhouse.

Nov 21, 2023: OpenAI investors considering suing the board

Some OpenAI investors, concerned about the removal of CEO Sam Altman and the potential employee exodus, are exploring legal action against the company's board, Reuters reported. Investors are in talks with legal advisers to weigh their options, with the possibility of a lawsuit. The investors fear significant financial losses, considering OpenAI's importance in their portfolios and the potential collapse of the prominent startup in the generative AI sector. By Monday, a majority of OpenAI's 700-plus employees threatened to resign unless there was a board replacement.

Nov 21, 2023: Elon Musk urges transparency on Altman's ouster

Adding to the ongoing OpenAI saga, Elon Musk now demands the global AI powerhouse to disclose the reasons behind CEO Sam Altman's abrupt firing, emphasising the immense risks associated with advanced artificial intelligence. Musk's response to a post on X by former Yammer CEO David Sacks underscores the vital importance of informing the public about the board's decision, adding weight to the call for openness and clarity in navigating the intricacies of AI leadership.

Nov 20, 2023: OpenAI staff rebellion gains momentum

In a bold move, hundreds of OpenAI employees, including co-founder Ilya Sutskever, rally against the board's decisions. A letter signed by 505 employees, as reported by The Wired, demands the resignation of the remaining board members. The letter asserts, "Your actions have made it obvious that you are incapable of overseeing OpenAI." The overwhelming support from the workforce hints at a potential mass exodus to join Sam Altman's new venture at Microsoft, adding fuel to the flames of OpenAI's ongoing turmoil. 

Nov 21, 2023: Microsoft recruits Altman and Brockman

As OpenAI reels from Altman's exit and a staff exodus, Microsoft makes a strategic move. Former OpenAI leaders, Sam Altman and Greg Brockman join Microsoft's AI dream team, announced by CEO Satya Nadella on X. Altman's departure triggers a significant staff exodus on Sunday night, potentially impacting OpenAI's progress and tempting rivals like Google to swoop in. Amidst this turmoil, Microsoft seizes the opportunity, welcoming Altman and Brockman to lead a "new advanced AI research" team.

Nov 20, 2023: OpenAI Staff Exodus After Altman's Departure

On Sunday night, dozens of OpenAI staffers announced their departure after board director Ilya Sutskever conveyed that ousted CEO Sam Altman would not return. This significant exodus may hinder OpenAI's progress and potentially impact the landscape of artificial intelligence, enticing rivals like Google to recruit former OpenAI talent. Some departing staff have expressed interest in joining Altman in a potential new AI venture, adding another layer of intrigue to the unfolding events.

Nov 20, 2023: Emmett Shear Takes the Helm as Interim CEO

Following intense negotiations over the potential return of Sam Altman, OpenAI's nonprofit board took a surprising turn by appointing former Twitch CEO and co-founder Emmett Shear as interim CEO. Shear steps into the role after Altman's removal and Mira Murati's interim leadership. The unexpected move comes as OpenAI's board resists stepping down to allow Altman's return, asserting that removing him is crucial for achieving the company's mission of "broadly beneficial" artificial general intelligence.

Nov 20: Sam Altman's Return Denied, Emmett Shear Appointed

Contrary to speculation, Sam Altman will not resume his role as OpenAI's CEO. The decision, communicated by board director Ilya Sutskever, solidifies the appointment of ex-Twitch leader Emmett Shear as the new interim boss. The news of Altman's exclusion from the CEO position has raised concerns among investors and employees, leading to a stream of distressed OpenAI staff leaving the headquarters shortly after the internal announcement.

Nov 19, 2023: Investor Pressure for Altman's Reinstatement

Investors, including Microsoft, leading a $10 billion investment in OpenAI, intensify efforts to reinstate ousted CEO Sam Altman. Altman and Greg Brockman engage in talks with the board about returning, marking a potential counter-coup. Reports indicate that Tiger Global spearheads an $86 billion employee share offer to support Altman's reinstatement, while Sequoia Capital urges Microsoft to facilitate his return.

Nov 18, 2023: OpenAI Shakes Up Leadership, Altman Ousted

In a surprising move, OpenAI removes CEO Sam Altman, citing communication lapses. Less than 24 hours after Altman's representation at the APEC conference, the board initiates a search for a new permanent CEO. The departure of Altman and President Greg Brockman follows an exhaustive review, revealing that Altman's communication style impeded the board's duties and led to a significant reshuffling within the organisation.

It's a developing story, check back for the latest updates...

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Topics: Leadership, #ArtificialIntelligence, #Hiring

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