Hundreds of OpenAI employees threatened Monday to leave the leading artificial intelligence (AI) company following the firing of Microsoft co-founder Sam Altman, a new hire, and move to Microsoft if the board does not resign.
In a letter published by WIRED and The Wall Street Journal, some of the company's top officials expressed their criticism and disgust at the decision to fire Altman: "His (the board's) actions have made it clear that he is incapable of managing OpenAI."
Included in the list of signatories' names was Ilya Sutskever, the company's chief scientist and one of the members of the four-person board that voted to remove Altman. Also on the list is senior executive Mira Murati, who was appointed to replace Altman as chief executive on Friday, an offer she rejected over the weekend.
The content of the letter is reportedly supported by more than 500 workers out of a total of 770 of the staff at OpenAI, whose chatbot ChatGPT has led the rapid rise of AI technology.
If the board doesn't resign, they say, they will go to Microsoft, which announced on Monday the hiring of Altman, after OpenAI's board on Friday removed him from his position as chief executive.
"Microsoft has assured us that there are positions for all OpenAI employees in this new subsidiary if we decide to join," they said in the letter.
Within hours of Altman's dismissal being made public, several media outlets claimed that the board was considering repatriating him to his position within the company. The reason would have been pressure from some investors and the threat by many employees of a mass resignation.
Who is Emmett Shear, the new CEO of OpenAI?
One that leaves and the other that joins OpenAI. AFP
The big surprise was when the appointment of Emmett Shear as the new CEO of OpenAI, one of the founders of Twitch, the streaming platform that was born with the name Justin.tv and is now owned by Amazon, was confirmed.
"Today I received a call inviting me to consider a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: to become the interim CEO of OpenAI," Shear said in a tweet. "After consulting with my family and reflecting on it for a few hours, I agreed."
Shear's landing will not be a smooth road. He is expected to manage the reorganization of leadership teams and address key company concerns, a challenge that could take more than a month to make real progress.
His previous experience on Twitch and his understanding of the dynamic world of technology will be crucial in these times of change and expectation.
In a lengthy message, he added: "I accepted this job because I believe OpenAI is one of the most important companies out there today. When the board shared the situation and asked me to take over, I didn't make the decision lightly. In the end, I felt I had a duty to help if I could."
Shear revealed that he had recently stepped down from his position as CEO of Twitch to spend time with his nine-month-old son, an experience he described as "as rewarding as I thought it would be."
Ina great responsibility
We remain committed to our partnership with OpenAI and have confidence in our product roadmap, our ability to continue to innovate with everything we announced at Microsoft Ignite, and in continuing to support our customers and partners. We look forward to getting to know Emmett...
— Satya Nadella (@satyanadella) November 20, 2023
The man who until recently led the rollout of ChatGPT has joined the cradle of Windows to lead a new team specializing in AI. He is also joined by Greg Brockman, who until Friday was a chairman of OpenAI's board and who resigned following the firing of the previous CEO.
Sattya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, officially announced that Altman will join them to "lead an advanced AI division." In addition, he said that the firm he leads "remains committed to partnering with OpenAI."
The news seems to solve one of the great soap operas of recent years in the field of big technology, but it also raises questions about the future of the alliance that Microsoft had with OpenAI.
Over the weekend, Sam Altman posted on his X (Twitter) profile an image with an OpenAI visitor accreditation. "First and last time I've worn one of these," the accompanying message read.