Almost all OpenAI employees have threatened to quit and join Microsoft after Sam Altman’s firing

Nearly all of OpenAI’s employees have threatened to quit and follow ousted leader Sam Altman to work for the company’s biggest investor, Microsoft, unless the current board resigns, leaving the high-profile artificial intelligence startup in trouble. The future of has become increasingly uncertain.

More than 700 of the AI ​​firm’s approximately 770 employees signed a letter addressed to OpenAI’s board on Monday, saying the signers are “unable to work for or with people who have no regard for our mission and There is a lack of competence, judgment and care for the staff.” The letter called for every board member to resign and for Altman to be reinstated, otherwise the employees could move to Microsoft. “The software giant has assured us that there are positions for all OpenAI employees,” the letter said.

The extraordinary threat of a mass exodus comes after a roller-coaster weekend, during which OpenAI’s board rejected calls from its investors and top executives to reinstate Altman, who has been accused of overshadowing how fast artificial intelligence has evolved and Was fired after disagreements with the board on monetization. According to a source familiar with the deliberations, OpenAI executives — including then-interim CEO Mira Muratti, chief operating officer Brad Lightcap and chief strategy officer Jason Kwon — were in talks with the board on Sunday night to bring Altman back to the company. who requested anonymity to discuss personal information. Instead, the board named a new leader – former Twitch CEO Emmett Shear – and Microsoft appointed Altman and OpenAI co-founder Greg Brockman to lead a new in-house AI team.

The chaos inside OpenAI could reshape the world of artificial intelligence. OpenAI sparked a global frenzy around generic AI a year ago with the launch of its hugely popular chatbot ChatGPT. With Altman at its head, OpenAI was at the center of the tech industry’s efforts to deploy this technology to businesses and consumers — and also to work with regulators on guardrails for AI. But the tension over OpenAI raises new questions about whether AI startups can approach AI development responsibly, along with the need to raise large amounts of capital from investors to support the expensive computing infrastructure needed to build these tools. Can balance.

OpenAI’s turmoil could also trigger a highly competitive race to acquire AI talent by other tech companies. Salesforce Chief Executive Officer Marc Benioff on Monday offered to immediately hire researchers who resigned from their positions at OpenAI. Benioff said in a post on X that Salesforce will provide equal compensation to any researchers leaving OpenAI.

Among the many employees and executives who signed the letter were OpenAI chief technology officer Murati, who was named interim CEO on Friday, and OpenAI co-founder and board member Ilya Sutskever, who is expected to play a key role in the board’s work. Has been seen as one. (Wired previously reported on the employee letter.)

“I deeply regret my involvement in the board’s actions,” Sutskever wrote in a post on X, formerly Twitter, on Monday. “I never intended to harm OpenAI. I love everything we have built together and I will do everything I can to bring the company back together.”

People with knowledge of the matter have said Altman clashed with his board members, particularly Sutskever, the company’s chief scientist, over how quickly to develop generative AI, how to commercialize products and the public. What steps should be taken to reduce their potential losses? OpenAI’s other board members included Quora co-founder and CEO Adam D’Angelo; Tasha McCauley, CEO of GeoSim Systems; and Helen Toner, director of strategy and fundamental research grants at Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology.

In addition to differences of opinion over strategy, board members also opposed Altman’s entrepreneurial ambitions. Altman is trying to raise tens of billions of dollars from Middle Eastern sovereign wealth funds to build an AI chip startup to compete with processors made by Nvidia Corp, according to a person with knowledge of the investment proposal. Altman was approaching SoftBank Group Corp. Chairman Masayoshi Son about investing billions of dollars in a new business to create AI-oriented hardware in partnership with former Apple designer Jony Ive.

Altman’s ouster from the company he co-founded also reveals some immediate unknowns about OpenAI and its employees. Thrive Capital was expected to lead an offer for employee shares, a deal that would value OpenAI at $86 billion (roughly Rs. 7,16,735 crore). As of this weekend, the company had still not collected the money and told OpenAI that Altman’s departure would impact its operations.

Some investors were considering writing down the value of their OpenAI holdings to zero, according to a person familiar with the discussions. The potential move, which would make it more difficult for the company to raise additional money, appears designed to put pressure on the board to resign and bring back Altman.

Plans for a second tender in early 2024 were also on the table, which would have given early-stage investors a chance to get some liquidity on their shares, the people said. As of last week, blocks of private shares of OpenAI were being offered, valuing OpenAI at more than $100 billion (roughly Rs. 8,33,413 crores). That market dried up after news broke Friday that Altman had been fired by the board, leaving millions of dollars worth of private transactions pending.

The letter said Altman’s dismissal came as a surprise to OpenAI employees as well as Microsoft. A coalition of powerful investors, company leaders and the world’s largest software company tried over the weekend to reinstate Altman but to no avail.

Late Sunday night, the company’s four-person board appointed Shear, co-founder and former CEO of game-streaming website Twitch. Shear, who became OpenAI’s second interim chief executive in three days, won over directors because of his previous recognition of the dangers presented by AI, said a person familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations. Asked for.

Shear is a well-known technologist and computer scientist who has long advocated a more cautious approach to AI. He laid out priorities for his first 30 days in charge in a post on X, promising to improve the leadership team and appoint an independent investigator to look into the circumstances of Altman’s termination. This was clearly not enough to stop employees from issuing their board ultimatum. Shear did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Before the letter was released, several OpenAI employees posted similar messages on X: “OpenAI is nothing without its people.” Altman responded to many of them with heart emojis.

“We have more unity and commitment and focus than ever before,” Altman wrote on X Monday. “We’re all going to work together in some way, and I’m very excited. One team, one mission.”

© 2023 Bloomberg LP


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