How can we explain that the darling of Silicon Valley, the man who made ChatGPT a landmark event, could have been removed as CEO? An incredible “Game of Thrones” mystery.
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Sam Altman is a true Silicon Valley star. This was the young man admired by (almost) everyone who overnight turned OpenAI and ChatGPT into historic events. Just a few days ago, Sam chaired a developers conference where he announced some major and acclaimed new features.
How is it possible that such a charismatic individual with an almost exemplary career path would have been fired by the board of directors? Clarifications are required.
Board of Directors of six members
First of all, the thing to know is that the OpenAI Board of Directors is made up of only six members:
- Sam Altman;
- son colleague Greg Brockman;
- Ilya Sutskever, a fanatical computer scientist;
- Quora founder Adam D’Angelo and three other individuals.
When we know that Ilya Sutskever is at the origin of the putsch, the matter makes more sense: he needed to convince only three other people to get the majority vote and therefore be able to land Altman.
A difference of opinion on business philosophy
The controversy that arose here concerns an essential point: the future of OpenAI and of artificial intelligence (AI) as well. Over the past few years, a huge difference has become apparent. OpenAI started as a project with an almost human vocation to create artificial intelligence to serve people, and it is this philosophy that Sutskever has maintained.
However, a reality has set in: it costs a lot of money to develop ChatGPT or Dall-e. In fact, Altman and Brockman brought in major players in the capital, starting with Microsoft, which dropped billions of dollars without counting.
And then ChatGPT launched in late November 2022. Overnight, OpenAI significantly scaled up, establishing itself as an AI giant, reaching a $90 billion valuation at the time of its IPO. Altman and Brockman were fully engaged in this vision of a company capable of competing with Google and others. While Sutskever will remain a kind of idealist of artificial intelligence, not at all in tune with this “commercial” approach.
Thus, Sutskever was able to win over three other council members to his point of view and that was all.
Microsoft was not warned!
What is absolutely astonishing is that Microsoft, the No. 1 investor in OpenAI, was informed of the announcement only a minute before the official announcement of Altman’s dismissal. Shaken, Microsoft president Satya Nadella fought over the weekend to reinstate Altman and Brockman to OpenAI — who promptly resigned. Regrettably, Altman sought to remove Sutskever and the three other members who had rejected him. An interim CEO also supported the plan.
Sutskever and his colleagues defended their position and eventually named Twitch co-founder Emmett Shearer as the head of OpenAI.
Microsoft was the first to be threatened and everyone’s eyes were on its share price. And then Satya Nadella pulled off a masterstroke by hiring Sam Altman and Greg Brockman! And, of course, those who are disappointed with OpenAI, and many of them have suggested that they are going to abandon ship, are welcome to do so.
From the operation it appears that Microsoft was the big winner of the operation and ChatGPT was saved on the shore, However, it is possible that many users will cancel their subscription to ChatGPT in preference to its Bing Chat counterpart and Microsoft will do nothing to discourage them.