Breathe a sigh of relief, AI fans and users of the hit ChatGPT app on mobile. The chaos that just rocked the emerging world of AI – revealing many of its key creators and star players to be infinitely more human and fallible than the neural networks they were busy creating – is now over.
If today’s news is to be believed, Sam Altman will be returning as CEO of OpenAI – the company behind the increasingly popular ChatGPT content creation platform and app – exactly as he was last Thursday before his board decided to sack him.
Between then and now we’ve seen:
All in all, quite the four days…
So what have we learnt?
Firstly we’ve learnt that the future of AI can’t apparently happen without Sam Altman. Ironically for a technology focussed on removing human brains from decision making it appears that the knowledge to do so lies entirely within one guy’s head.
Secondly, we’ve learnt that when placed in such a position you’re pretty much the most powerful person on earth, able to sack your sackers and relax knowing that nobody will ever dare to try the same trick again. Blame the combination of Altman being a smart guy plus an impending multiple billion dollar floatation that – if he naysayers were right – would have gone down the pan without him. I mean, when there’s billions at stake, why risk anything?
We can only imagine the compensation package Altman just negotiated for sitting back behind his desk (and how many of those OpenAI shares will now have his name on) but no surprises for guessing who’ll be picking the band for the OpenAI Christmas party.
Thirdly, we’ve learnt that any and everyone in tech agrees that AI is “a thing” and the masterplan apparently already in place for its rollout (and the bucks already allocated their eventual designated home) must not be upset AT ANY COST.
And finally – fourthly – we’ve learnt that OpenAI’s board had no notion as to the existence of any of the above. Seriously, it seems that even if Sam Altman were to kill your cat, you’re always better off giving him a pay rise.
So who’s in and who’s out?
OpenAI have confirmed that the new board comprises former Twitter chairman and Salesforce co-chief executive Bret Taylor as chairman, former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and Adam D’Angelo, the only surviving member of the four directors who had offed Mr Altman on Friday.
The company said: “We have reached an agreement in principle for Sam to return to OpenAI as CEO with a new initial board of Bret Taylor (chairman), Larry Summers, and Adam D’Angelo. We are collaborating to figure out the details. Thank you so much for your patience through this.”
And as for Emmett Shear, the ex-Twitch boss who stepped in as CEO upon Altman’s departure to take up that “once in a lifetime opportunity”? His stint in the hottest seat in tech lasted less than three days. He wrote on X, “I am deeply pleased by this result, after ~72 very intense hours of work. Coming into OpenAI, I wasn’t sure what the right path would be. This was the pathway that maximised safety alongside doing right by all stakeholders involved. I’m glad to have been a part of the solution.”
So where to now?
Well, after that four days, who can tell? But with the board that sacked him ousted and a new board finding their seats you can bet that Altman will be relishing being able to mould the company that he founded with almost certainly almost limitless power. And with co-founder Greg Brockman similarly re-appointed and anointed the pair will have each other’s backs until the end of time.
Incredibly Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chief executive, remains surprisingly unsalty after having his escape pod rejected, saying: “We are encouraged by the changes to the OpenAI board. We believe this is a first essential step on a path to more stable, well-informed, and effective governance.
“Sam, Greg, and I have talked and agreed they have a key role to play along with the OpenAI leadership team in ensuring OpenAI continues to thrive and build on its mission. We look forward to building on our strong partnership and delivering the value of this next generation of AI to our customers and partners.”
See? Even Microsoft still loves them.
And hopefully some that big name big money behind the scenes will be resting easy too. If anything the upset has only proved just how key OpenAI is set to be in all our futures.
But before we all make the world a better place, best brace yourself for that OpenAI IPO…