News stories came out on November 17, 2023 regarding the abrupt firing of Sam Altman as CEO of OpenAI. He was invited to a Zoom call at noon to meet with the board and immediately fired. Within about 20 minutes, a press release was issued saying words to the effect that the board had been reviewing actions over some period and concluded he had not been honest in information he had provided and had lost their confidence in being able to lead the company.
The conflict appears more strategic in nature than anything else because the board also removed another exec from the board while stating he was still staying with the company in his vital role. Apparently, they didn’t review that statement with him because he immediately resigned as well. Subsequent to that, two or three other key engineers quit.
The churn at OpenAI may have significant investing and regulatory impacts because it seems there were conflicts over making rapid progress with AI capabilities versus making progress establishing safeguards around AI output and learning / feedback loops of the core technology. I don’t follow the technical and exec alignments close enough to comment on the validity of the rumor mills. One interpretation is that Sam Altman might have been more interested in progressing raw capabilities and determining ways to commercialize / monetize the technology while the board may have been more cautious and interested in ensuring guardrail technology remained a top priority.
From a talent pool standpoint, it means that at least four or five keystone figures in the core engineering and / or business marketing aspects of AI are adrift between firms. They might hire on at one of the other gravitational hubs in the space or start other competing firms. I think I’d prefer each launch a new startup. The more fragmentation there is in this sector, the longer it will take to coalesce, giving the public and government a chance to formulate appropriate regulations.