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The Adulting of OpenAI: What’s Going to Be Different

It is not yet clear what role OpenAI's chief scientist, the brilliant Ilya Sutskever, will play going forward, among other changes.

Deborah Yao

November 30, 2023

3 Min Read
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OpenAI

At a Glance

  • OpenAI's new board will be adding members, including a non-voting observer role for a Microsoft representative.
  • The new board will convene an independent committee to look into the firing of Sam Altman and the events that followed.
  • Altman is talking with Chief Scientist Ilya Sutskever, who was key to OpenAI's breakthroughs, about his role at the company.

In a missive punctuated by the words “love,” “excited” and “best,” returning OpenAI CEO Sam Altman told his colleagues how grateful he was to be back to “finishing the job of building beneficial AGI with you all.”

But it is not exactly business as usual at OpenAI.

The role of OpenAI Chief Scientist Ilya Sutskever, which reportedly led the ouster of Altman, could be in question. Sutskever, whose breakthrough research helped lead to the creation of ChatGPT, stepped down from the board when Altman returned.

“While Ilya will no longer serve on the board, we hope to continue our working relationship and are discussing how he can continue his work at OpenAI,” Altman said in a blog post on the one-year anniversary of ChatGPT.

He added: “I love and respect Ilya, I think he's a guiding light of the field and a gem of a human being. I harbor zero ill will towards him.”

Greg Brockman, OpenAI’s president who quit after Altman was fired and later rejoined the company, will be more visible organizationally.

“Greg and I are partners in running this company. We have never quite figured out how to communicate that on the org chart, but we will. In the meantime, I just wanted to make it clear,” Altman wrote.

Brockman will not be rejoining the board. Mira Murati will retake her role as CTO. She was the first interim CEO after Altman’s ouster.

Related:Why OpenAI Fired Its CEO Sam Altman

Altman also said that OpenAI did not lose a single employee or customer during the boardroom drama. Competitors had tried to lure away employees and customers: Salesforce’s CEO offered to match salaries while AWS reportedly began speaking with OpenAI rival Anthropic about how to win over the customers.

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told reporters in a press briefing of his latest AI forum that he is glad Altman is back at OpenAI.

"I talked to Sam and he's back in charge. I think most people feel that is a good thing because ... we want to stay in the lead on AI," he said. "OpenAI has been leading the charge. There are other good companies, big and small, but I think there's a sigh of relief in the industry and probably in the country that Sam was back there."

Committee to investigate what happened

The previously announced new board – consisting of former Salesforce co-CEO Bret Taylor, former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and Quora co-founder Adam D’Angelo – will be adding members.

OpenAI’s board will convene a “qualified, diverse” board of “exceptional” individuals whose experience spans the breadth of the company’s mission, from technology to safety and policy. During the five-day chaos at OpenAI, a letter signed by more than 700 employees said the former board “did not have the competence” to oversee the company and threatened to resign.

Related:OpenAI Existence in Limbo as Nearly All Staff Threaten to Quit

Microsoft, which had invested $13 billion in OpenAI in return for 49% of its profits, will join the board as a non-voting observer. CEO Satya Nadella reportedly was furious for not being informed beforehand of Altman’s firing.

Taylor said the company will set up an independent committee of the board to look into OpenAI’s recent chaotic events. The old board had said Altman was “not consistently candid” in his communication with them and as such it “no longer has confidence in his ability to continue leading OpenAI.” No other explanation was given, despite calls by OpenAI’s executives to explain their actions.

Altman tweeted that he does “welcome the board’s independent review of all recent events” and acknowledged that “there were real misunderstandings between me and members of the board.”

Altman added that he looks forward to working closely with the new board on the next steps “so everyone can be confident in the stability of OpenAI.”

Read more about:

ChatGPT / Generative AI

About the Author(s)

Deborah Yao

Editor

Deborah Yao runs the day-to-day operations of AI Business. She is a Stanford grad who has worked at Amazon, Wharton School and Associated Press.

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